It took King Mswati III of Swaziland less than one day to make his first unworkable promise as Chair of SDAC.
The King, who rules the impoverished tiny kingdom as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, said he would create a new university of University of Transformation within a year to serve the whole of the Southern African Development Community.
King Mswati became Chair of SADC on Tuesday (30 August 2016). The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King, reported him saying Swaziland would pay for 300 students to study at the university in its initial intake.
The Times of Swaziland, the only other daily newspaper in the kingdom, reported the King saying, ‘This initiative will give new hope and opportunity to our youth and women.’
The King and the media in Swaziland that enthusiastically and uncritically reported his statement, gave no indication of where the money would come from for the project, who would teach at the university, what academic programmes it would run, and how programmes would be administered.
The University of Swaziland (UNISWA), the kingdom’s largest and oldest university has been unable to start teaching this academic year because students are protesting against cuts in scholarships. The Government, whose members are hand-picked by King Mswati, say they can only afford to fund 500 new students this year. About 1,500 had expected to get scholarships.
Later, King Mswati announced the University of Transformation would initially be housed at Limkokwing University of Creative Technology in Swaziland. Limkokwing is a private university. Many will see the King’s decision as a snub to UNISWA, where he is Chancellor.
According to its website, Limkokwing in Swaziland only offers ‘associate degrees’ which are at a level below Bachelor degrees and in many universities are known as diplomas.
In June 2012, Bandile Mkhonta, Head of Human Resource for Limkokwing in Mbabane, Swaziland, told local media that of 53 professional staff at the university; only one had a Ph.D doctorate. A Ph.D is usually considered by universities to be the minimum qualification required to be given the rank of senior lecturer.
The Swazi Observer reported Mkhonta saying Limkokwing had fewer Ph.Ds because it was a ‘non-conventional’ university whose curriculum was mainly based on practice than theory.
Limkokwing in Swaziland had no staff at professor rank and no record of conducting scholarly research.