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Saturday, 31 July 2010

SIKHUPHE: FANTASY THAT NEVER DIES

Could the propagandists in Swaziland please get their stories straight about the opening of Sikhuphe International Airport.


About 10 days ago they told a bunch of Taiwanese businesspeople it would open in October 2010.


Now, they’ve told a different group of Taiwanese it’ll be ready by the end of March 2011.


I get the feeling they just make it up as they go along.


Those readers of this blog with the stamina to follow my Fantasy Watch game will know that the completion date for the airport, estimated to cost one billion US dollars by the time it is finished, keeps moving.


King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, who came up with the idea for the airport in the first place, confidently told the world it would open in March 2010.


But March 2010 came and went and no airport is operational. Then Barnabas Dlamini, the man the king illegally-appointed Prime Minister, said it would open for the FIFA World Cup in June 2010. It didn’t.


In the latest attempt to convince the world that Sikhuphe will eventually open, a group of Taiwanese journalists were taken for a visit to the site. In typical Swazi fashion the two fellows leading the jaunt told journalists they were not authorised to make statements to the press.


Personally, I don’t blame them. Anything they say about the airport could come back and bite them on the bottom.


I’ve been monitoring the statements made about the airport over the past year or so and it’s clear to me that no one is telling the truth – either about the completion date or about how many airlines are going to want to use the airport when (if?) it does open.


According to a report in the Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only independent daily newspaper, ‘managers were working on developing new routes to bring long-haul flights from across the world. At the moment, the Matsapha International Airport handles between 70 000 to 80 000 passengers annually; while Sikhuphe will handle up to 300 000 passengers a year. The terminal here has been designed to handle about 300 people per hour.’


We’ve heard this before when it was claimed Etihad Airways of the United Arab Emirates wanted to use the airport. We’ve heard nothing since from Etihad.


Take a tip from me don’t believe a word they say about Sikhuphe.

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