The Swaziland Government’s official spokesman has categorically denied that public money was used to purchase King Mswati III’s new jet plane.
Percy Simelane said, ‘A thousand times No’, when asked by the BBC if public money was involved.
Simelane claimed the jet was given to the King by well-wishers, but he denied that it had been given as a gift for the King’s 44th birthday that fell on 19 April.
He told the Focus on Africa programme that ‘sponsors’ had given the plane. He said they were ‘development partners and friends of the King’.
The claim has been met with scepticism from prodemocracy campaigners who say that no reputably development agency would be able to make such a purchase for the King, who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch
There are fears that public money has been used to buy the jet because in 2002 the Swazi Government secretly put down an E28 million (US$2.6 million) deposit on a Bombardier jet for the King worth US$51 million, roughly a quarter of Swaziland’s national budget at the time.
The deal fell through when it was leaked and there followed an international outcry over the purchase. Foreign donors said Swaziland might lose developmental aid, including US$30 million from the European Union, if the purchase went through.
At the time, CNN reported Natural Resources Minister Magwagwa Mdluli telling drought victims at rural Macetjeni, ‘The King needs the plane to get food for you.’
DISBELIEF OVER KING’S NEW JET