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Saturday, 12 March 2011


The building of the Sikhuphe International Airport might never be completed, a Swaziland Government minister has admitted.

Prince Hlangusemphi, Minister of Economic Planning and Development, told members of parliament that because of the financial meltdown in the kingdom, he could not guarantee that the project would be completed.

It has been estimated that Sikhuphe, dubbed King Mswati III’s vanity project, could cost US$1 billion by the time it is finished (if it ever is).

Hlangusemphi made his admission when questioned by MPs about the budget for Sikhuphe in the coming year.

The Swazi Observer, the newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, reported that his ministry’s portfolio committee demanded Hlangusemphi guaranteed that building work would not run over budget in the coming year.

The government dismayed the International Monetary Fund (IMF) last year when it gave an additional E350 million (US$50 million) to supplement its budget, bringing the total spend for the year 2010/2011 to E706 million.

The Observer reported that despite government suspending other capital projects due to the financial crisis, Sikhuphe construction was not affected.

The newspaper reported, ‘MPs are worried that the ministry will go to parliament and ask for another supplementary budget and they feel that thing is going to worsen expenses for government while also affecting other projects.’

The government has budgeted E469 million for Sikhuphe in the coming year.

The Observer reported, ‘Minister Prince Hlangusemphi could not provide a straight forward response to the question but said he was only hoping that the project would be completed but he cannot guarantee that as it depends largely on availability of funds.’

Sikhuphe has been controversial because there is no need for a new airport in Swaziland. As I reported last month (February 2011), Hlangusemphi’s publicly stated justifications for the airport (that it would ease the congestion at OR Tambo Airport, Johannesburg; it would attract tourists to Swaziland and new business opportunities) are false.

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