The Swaziland Government’s claim that King Mswati III’s newly-arrived jet was given to him by ‘development partners’ may be wide of the mark.
Instead, news is emerging that the McDonnell Douglas DC-9 twin-engine jet was donated by Salgaocar, an Indian-based private company that has recently acquired mining rights in Swaziland after going into partnership with the King.
Salgaocar describes itself on its website as ‘a leading multi-conglomerate in India [that] is engaged mainly in mining and export of iron ore to the different countries of the world.’ It is thought to have given the king a corporate jet that the company no longer needed.
This news contradicts what Barnabas Dlamini, the Swazi Prime Minister, said earlier this week that the jet was given to the king by ‘sponsors’ of Swaziland who were ‘development partners’.
Salgaocar started mining for iron ore this year after it received a seven-year licence from the Swaziland Government to extract iron ore from dump piles left at a closed mine at Ngwenya.
According to Metal Bulletin, an industry journal, the Swaziland Government owns a 50 per cent stake in Salgaocar Swaziland, the subsidiary set up to do the work in the kingdom.
But, in Swaziland, where King Mswati is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, the King takes the place of the government in business dealings and will receive the income from the venture himself and use the money as he pleases.
The value of Salgaocar’s contract is not known.
Meanwhile, the company is keen to promote its charitable work in Swaziland. Last month it was reported that Salgaocar would spend up to E5 million (US$645,000) this year to supply clean drinking water, education, and medical help in Swaziland.
No official announcement has been made about who donated the jet. Percy Simelane, the Swazi Government’s official spokesperson, said the donors wanted to remain anonymous.
The Government seems to be embarrassed about the amount of publicity surrounding the purchase and has banned people from photographing the jet. One person who took pictures of the plane in order to get its identity number and trace its owners was forced by police and army to delete the pictures.