The king, the last absolute monarch in sub-Saharan Africa, and the media in Swaziland, have been telling the world that the airport would be up and ready this month and planes would be flying there in time to take visitors to the FIFA World Cup in South Africa this coming June.
But what is there at Sikhuphe? Not much more than a building site.
Regular readers will know that in October 2009 King Mswati was so confident that the airport would be ready he told an audience in Kuwait where he was trying to get people to invest in his kingdom, ‘Swaziland is an ideal safe, secure, stable and investor-friendly destination, which boasts world class infrastructure. The completion of Sikhuphe International Airport in March 2010 will further improve our standing.’
Will ‘further improve our standing’, the king said. Well, here we are in March 2010 with no airport. What does that say about King Mswati III’s standing?
I’ve been writing about Sikhuphe since November 2008, when I exposed the extent to which the so-called international airport at Sikhuphe is one of King Mswati III’s vanity projects. He says that Swaziland needs the airport and therefore there shall be one.
The airport was estimated to cost at least E1.5 billion (about 150 million US dollars) if it ever gets finished. International organisations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have criticised the project as a waste of resources, but the Swazi Government continues to throw good money after bad.
As part of my Fantasy Watch game, I also reminded the Swazi media that they needed to keep an eye on all the claims about the airport that were coming from the king and his hangers-on, because there was next to no truth in them. If the media refused to tell it as it is, I would.
The media went on with their optimistic reports. Only last month (February 2010) they reported on a whirlwind visit to the airport site made by Swaziland’s Deputy Prime Minister Themba Masuku.
The Swazi Observer, the newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, which yesterday publicly declared that it would never compromise King Mswati, reported on the visit.
It claimed that building was on schedule and that it would open ‘in time for the FIFA World Cup, to be held in neighbouring South Africa’.
Swaziland is banking on a heavy air traffic flow during the one month football spectacular and is hoping to attract a number of tourists to visit the country, and a world class airport is one of the prerequisites to ensure this, the newspaper reported.
Absolute nonsense. Will the media in Swaziland now just tell us the truth that it isn’t going to happen.
Sikhulphe is not only a white elephant; it’s a dead duck too.