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Monday, 29 June 2015

SWAZI SUPREME COURT NEPOTISM FEAR

A raft of appointments of judges to Swaziland’s Supreme Court has raised questions about nepotism in the kingdom ruled by absolute monarch, King Mswati III.

Even one of the newspapers in Swaziland that he in effect owns has raised doubts about the wisdom of appointing judges who are related to one another.

And, the Swazi Attorney-General Majahenkhaba Dlamini has been appointed a temporary Supreme Court judge for the month of July 2015, raising questions about the independence from government of the judiciary.

On Friday (26 June 2015), seven acting judges to the Supreme Court were announced, which the Sunday Observer newspaper reported, ‘resulted in the kingdom’s judiciary turning into a close knit family affair of spouses and siblings’.

The newspaper reported, ‘Newly-appointed Judge of the Supreme Court Majahenkhaba Dlamini joins his wife High Court Judge Mumcy Dlamini as members of the judiciary.

‘Former High Court Judge Qinisile Mabuza and her brother Sipho Nkosi have both been appointed Judges of the Supreme Court – the latter’s appointment is on an acting basis while the former’s is permanent.

‘There is also High Court Judge Nkululeko Hlophe whose wife is Supreme Court Registrar and Judicial Service Commission (JSC) Secretary Lorraine Hlophe.

‘With Majahenkhaba and his wife Judge Mumcy, questions have been raised on what would happen should the former, in his capacity as acting Supreme Court Judge, find himself having to review cases that were decided by the latter at the High Court.

‘There are suggestions that there are strong possibilities of this scenario coming true.’

There are also concerns that some of the new judges might not be suitably qualified.

The Observer reported, ‘A senior judicial expert who spoke to the Sunday Observer, though stating clearly not being opposed to the appointments, was worried that Acting Judges Nkosi and Cloete were appointed straight to the Supreme Court without any experience of presiding in the lower courts, especially the High Court.

‘“There is a lot that they need to learn, which they can do by presiding at the High Court before they are elevated to the Supreme Court,” said the expert.’

 The appointment of Attorney-General Majahenkhaba Dlamini to the Supreme Court for one month has raised doubts about King Mswati’s commitment to the separation of powers between the legislative, the executive and the judiciary. 

Dlamini is a member of the Swazi Government that was hand-picked by King Mswati, an ex-official member of the House of Assembly and now a judge. That gives him a place in all three branches of government.

The full list of Supreme Court Judges:

• Acting Chief Justice Bheki Maphalala
• Dr. Ben Odoki JA
• Justice Stanley Maphalala JA
• Justice Jacobus Annandale JA
• Justice Qinisile Mabuza JA
• Justice Mbutfo Mamba JA
• AG Majahenkhaba Dlamini JA
• Lawyer Robert Cloete AJA
• Lawyer Sipho Nkosi AJA

Sunday, 28 June 2015

SWAZILAND’S MASSIVE MILITARY SPENDING

A new report shows Swaziland spent US$259.8 million on its military in the past three years. 

In 2014 military spending amounted to 5.9 percent of all government, spending in Swaziland, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) in its Military Expenditure Database for 2015.

The military spending amounted to 2.2 percent of Swaziland’s entire gross domestic product (GDP).

Swaziland has a population of nearly 1.3 million people. Seven in ten of them live in abject poverty, with incomes of less than US$2 per day.

In the calendar year 2014, Swaziland’s military spending was estimated to be US$80.6 million; about the equivalent of US$62 for every person in the kingdom.

King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, and the government he handpicks, refuse to publicly discuss military spending citing ‘national security’ issues as an excuse.

Swaziland is a tiny landlocked kingdom and is not at war and there are no potential enemies at the borders ready to invade. Swaziland’s international obligations in the military arena are few, and Swazi troops are not expected to be deployed abroad anytime soon.

Despite the reluctance of the King and Government to discuss military spending it is possible to piece together a picture of what might be behind the large spending.

In 2011, the Swazi Government set aside more than E1 billion (US$100 million) for spending on the army and police force and the then Finance Minister Majozi Sithole admitted that the army was prepared for an uprising by the population in Swaziland.

This followed a series of prodemocracy uprisings in North Africa, leading to what became known as the ‘Arab Spring’. King Mswati was fearful something similar could happen in his kingdom.  A Facebook group calling itself the April 12 Uprising had already called for an overthrow of the King.

In February 2011, Sithole told an open stakeholder dialogue on the 2011-2012 budget and Fiscal Adjustment Roadmap, ‘Yes, we are spending a lot on the army but we are not anticipating what is happening in North Africa to come here,’ he said.

He added, ‘However, the army is there to avoid such situations.’ 

In 2009, the Swazi Government was revealed to be engaged in arms dealing by the United States. A diplomatic cable written by Maurice Parker, the then US Ambassador to Swaziland, and later published by WikiLeaks revealed that the UK Government had blocked an arms deal between a UK company Unionlet and the Swaziland Government because it feared their ‘possible use for internal repression’. 

The Swazi Government wanted to buy equipment worth US$60 million.

Among items listed for purchase were, ‘3 Bell Model UH-1H helicopters, FN Herstal 7.6251mm Minimi light machine guns, blank and tracer ammunition, armored personnel carriers, command and control vehicles including one fitted with a 12.7x99mm M2 Browning heavy machine gun and others fitted with the FN Herstal light machine guns, military ambulances, armored repair and recovery vehicles, weapon sights, military image intensifier equipment, optical target surveillance equipment, 620 Heckler & Koch G36E assault rifles, 240 Heckler & Koch G36K assault rifles, 65 Heckler & Koch G36E rifles, 75 Heckler & Koch UMP submachine guns 9x19mm, and 35 Heckler & Koch USP semi-automatic pistols’.

The Swaziland Government said it wanted the items to fulfil its United Nations ‘peacekeeping’ obligations in Africa.

The UK Government did not believe it and thought either the weapons would be used against the Swazi civilian population, or they were being bought in order to sell on to another country, possibly Iran. The UK Government blocked the deal.

In his diplomatic cable, Parker said, ‘The array of weapons requested would not be needed for the first phases of peacekeeping, although it is possible someone tried to convince the Swazi government they were required. The GKOS [Government of the Kingdom of Swaziland] may have been attempting to build up domestic capability to deal with unrest, or was possibly acting as an intermediary for a third party such as Zimbabwe or a Middle Eastern country that had cash, diamonds or goods to trade.’

The Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom, which first broke the story, reported at the time, Swaziland had a poor human rights record which was criticised by the US state department in its 2009 report (the year the deal was to have taken place).

‘Government agents continued to commit or condone serious abuses, and the human rights situation in the country deteriorated. Human rights problems included inability of citizens to change their government; extrajudicial killings by security forces; mob killings; police use of torture, beatings, and excessive force on detainees,’ the report said.

In the months before the attempted arms sale, Swaziland’s government declared the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) the main opposition political party a terrorist organisation and arrested its leader, Mario Masuku.

Once the cable became public in 2011, John Kunene, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Defence, who signed the original deal in 2008, said the kingdom had never given up trying to buy the weapons.

The Swazi News, an independent newspaper in Swaziland, reported (26 February 2011) that Kunene was still trying to broker a deal. 

In March 2011 Lutfo Dlamini, who was then Minister of Defence, denied the Wikileaks report and, according to a report in the Times of Swaziland, told the Swazi Senate there was at no stage where the country spoke of purchasing guns.  

The Swazi Observer reported him saying, ‘We never bought any guns anywhere and never spent E429 million. The information leaked was misleading, it was written by someone who had his own agendas.’

Clearly, Lutfo Dlamini was not telling the truth since Kunene had already confirmed that he was still trying to broker the deal.

In March 2011 Kunene was sacked from his job after a disclosure that the Umbutfu Swaziland Defence Force (the army) had run out of food to feed its soldiers. 

A month after the Wikleaks revelation about possible arms sales to the Middle East, the AFP news agency reported Swaziland was importing two containers of firearms through a Mozambican port. 

AFP quoted Mozambican state daily newspaper Noticias as its source. It reported the arms arrived in Maputo, the Mozambican capital, on a Panamanian vessel on 28 February 2011 from an unspecified country.

Swaziland is in effect broke and has been struggling for the past four years to come up with a recovery package that could revive the economy. It has ignored advice from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to cut its public service wage bill and to increase the amount of money it collects in taxation. The IMF wants moneys to be transferred from capital expenditure projects to help poor and disadvantaged people.

In March 2013 it was revealed that the Swazi government had sold US$3 million worth of maize donated by Japan as humanitarian aid to feed malnourished people, including children. It put the money raised in a special account at the Central Bank of Swaziland.  

See also

SECRET ARMS DEAL FOR IRAN
SWAZILAND AND SECRET ARMS DEAL
SUPPORT FOR BLOCK ON SWAZI ARMS
ARMS SHIPMENT HEADS TO SWAZILAND
 

Friday, 26 June 2015

SWAZILAND APARTHEID SHAME REVEALED

During the height of the Apartheid era, Swaziland lobbied the US and UK Governments not to support economic sanctions on South Africa, a confidential communication from 1978 has revealed.

The then Swazi Prime Minister Maphevu Harry Dlamini said the sanctions would be ‘disastrous’ for the Swaziland economy.

The information contradicts the present-day belief that King Sobuza III and his Swazi Governments were stanch supporters of the struggle for freedom in South Africa during the Apartheid era.

Dlamini was said to have ‘pleaded strongly’ with the US and UK not to support sanctions.

This was revealed in a confidential electronic telegram sent from the United States State Department on 7 November 1978. It was distributed to the UK, Zambia, Mozambique and France.

The electronic telegram said, ‘During 30-minute meeting in his office November 2, Prime Minister pleaded strongly with UK and US reps to urge our governments to prevent adoption of UN sanctions against South Africa, especially on oil, on ground that sanctions would be not only suicidal for Swaziland but also extremely detrimental to blacks.’

The writer of the cable, who was not named, but was likely to be the US Ambassador to Swaziland said the US and UK representatives at the meeting agreed to seek clarification of positions from their governments ‘soonest’.

The confidential message added, ‘In unprecedented move, Prime Minister Maphevu summoned British High Commissioner and me jointly to his office November 2 for urgent approach on issue of UN sanctions against South Africa. 

‘Prime Minister said that from series of telexes and telecons from Swazi UN representative Malinga, he understood that United Nations was on brink of voting on sanctions issue and that Western powers, possibly reflecting disenchantment with South Africa’s posture on Namibian election question, were leaving impression in New York that they might not repeat not veto a sanctions resolution. 

‘Although worried about effect that any kind of sanctions would have on Swaziland’s economy, Prime Minister was principally concerned about oil sanctions. 

‘Prime Minister said he did not have to remind UK and US reps in Mbabane, who saw situation first-hand, how dependent Swaziland economy is on South African economy. 

‘Oil sanctions would be “disastrous” for Swaziland. 

‘He added that one could be sure that not only Swaziland’s population, but also blacks in South Africa itself, would be the first to feel the pinch if sanctions were imposed; he gave the example of black entrepreneurs in South Africa, who he said would certainly be treated far less favorably by South African authorities when rationing began. 

‘Several times in his forceful half-hour presentation the Prime Minister talked as spokesman for blacks in all of Southern Africa and not merely for Swazis. 

‘He said sanctions would be “indirect killing of black people in Southern Africa”.

‘For Swaziland to vote for sanctions would be “suicidal.”

‘Prime Minister asked rhetorically which black leaders in South Africa itself would support sanctions. He hoped that Western policy-makers were not taking advice from “blacks who left South Africa ten to twenty years ago and who are now living comfortably in Europe and America.”

‘He downplayed any hard-line advice that might be given by front-line leaders, who continue their own economic dealings with South Africa (as Swaziland does) because there is no alternative to such cooperation; he cited Zambian railroad move as one recent example.’

Maphevu Harry Dlamini was Prime Minister of Swaziland from 31 March 1976 until his death on 25 October 1979.

The telegram was classified confidential when it was written in 1978, and was declassified in 2014. It is now publicly available through the Wikileaks’ Public Library of US Diplomacy.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

WARRANT OUT ON EX-CHIEF JUSTICE

The Swaziland High Court has re-issued a warrant for the arrest of sacked Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi.

Ramodibedi, a Lesotho national, was sacked on 17 June 2015 by King Mswati III, the absolute monarch of Swaziland.

Ramodibedi left Swaziland and is reported to have returned to Lesotho.

The original warrant for arrest was issued on 17 April 2015 on 23 charges relating to alleged abuse of power. 

The warrant was rescinded by Judge Jacobus Annandale during the nearly two months that Ramodibedi was suspended from office and under self-imposed house arrest. 

A Judicial Service Commission hearing found Ramodibedi guilty of misconduct. Ramodibedi did not attend the hearing, citing ill health.

Following the hearing, King Mswati sacked Ramodibedi.

The warrant was re-issued by High Court Judge Nkululeko Hlophe on Wednesday (24 June 2015).

See also 

SACKED CHIEF JUSTICE LEAVES KINGDOM
CHIEF JUSTICE CASE HEARD IN HIS ABSENCE
http://swazimedia.blogspot.co.uk/2015/06/chief-justice-case-heard-in-his-absence.html

SWAZI HOUSE SPEAKER SUSPENDED

Swaziland’s Speaker of the House of Assembly Themba Msibi was suspended from office for seven days after an allegation that he conspired to oust the Prime Minister from office.

It was one of four allegations that have surfaced in the kingdom, ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King, reported that Msibi was suspended on 17 June 2015 and a parliamentary investigation started against him for four allegations.

The newspaper listed them as follows:

‘A newspaper article that implicates Msibi in interfering in the personnel recruitment process in Parliament. 

‘Misrepresentation he made in Cameroon during the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, that he had been nominated into the local chapter of CPA.

‘He was responsible for the dissolution of the Parliamentary joint house committee.

‘That he was one of the conspirators to oust the Prime Minister [Barnabas Dlamini] from office.’

Msibi then went to the Swazi High Court to seek a ruling that the House of Assembly did not have the power to suspend a Speaker.

On Wednesday (24 June 2015) the High Court ruled that the House of assembly investigation should be halted pending further deliberation by the court.

Msibi was a controversial choice as Speaker of the House of Assembly. He was elected unopposed after all other candidates withdrew from the election. Msibi was considered to be the choice of King Mswati.

In October 2013, following the national election, in which political parties were banned from taking part, the House of Assembly was ready to elect a Speaker but it was adjourned for three days to allow Msibi time to get his nomination papers entered.

The adjournment was forced by Clerk of Parliament Ndvuna Dlamini. The adjournment caused confusion in the Swazi Parliament because the kingdom’s Constitution suggests the election of Speaker had to take place at the first sitting of Parliament following a national election.

Once news that King Mswati wanted Msibi in place, other candidates withdrew.

Among those withdrawing was Prince Guduza, the Speaker of the previous Parliament. He was widely thought of as the first choice of Parliamentarians and until the King’s intervention, was expected to be elected. 

King Mswati III had a week earlier appointed Msibi to the House of Assembly. Msibi did not stand as a candidate in the national election held on 20 September 2013. The king appoints 10 members of the House.

At the time, the Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King, ran a story recalling Msibi’s past life.  Msibi had at one time complained that there were ‘too many foreigners’ in Swaziland. The newspaper also reported that Msibi was once photographed by journalists with his trousers down in a car with a woman who was not his wife. Msibi later apologised to King Mswati for embarrassment caused.

See also

‘KING’S MAN’ STANDS FOR SPEAKER JOB
DISSIDENT STANDS AS HOUSE SPEAKER

SWAZI KING’S CUP TICKET PRICE SKY HIGH

Spectators will be charged E250 (US$25) to attend matches at the tournament set up to honour King Mswati III of Swaziland – at least two weeks’ income for seven in ten of his subjects.

The controversial tournament called the King’s Super Cup includes the two giant South African teams Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates.

Pro-democracy campaigners have urged the two clubs not to attend the tournament scheduled for 18 July 2015 because it would be seen as supporting the King who has been criticised globally for the poor human rights in his kingdom.

Political parties are banned from taking part in elections and the King, who rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, choses the government and top judges. Groups advocating democracy are banned under the Suppression of Terrorism Act and people advocating for reform are jailed.

The tournament’s organising committee chairman Zakhele Lukhele said that a special dinner would be arranged on the eve of the tournament and the price to attend would be E15,000 per table.

In Swaziland, seven in ten people have incomes of less than US$2 per day.

The announcement was made at the Royal Swazi Spa Convention Centre, Mbabane, on Wednesday (24 June 2015).

The Supersport website, based in South Africa, reported, ‘The King’s Super Cup is an initiative of Swaziland’s King Mswati III. “The number one football supporter in this country,” as one guest said it.’

A campaign started by pro-democracy activists in Swaziland has been reported by news organisations globally.

Campaigners say if the two South African football clubs took part in the tournament it would be a ‘mockery to the many activists that have died at the hands of the government and those who are presently languishing in jail for having dared to talk against the atrocities obtaining in Swaziland’.

The People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), in a statement said, ‘Almost 70 percent of Swazi citizens live under the poverty line of less than a dollar a day, while Mswati III’s preoccupation is buying private jets, luxury cars and touring the world with his throng of wives at the expense of the Swazi people.’

The statement added, ‘PUDEMO implores the two soccer giants to reconsider their decision to be involved in a tournament that seeks to put a human face on a government that has made it its prime occupation to govern the people with fear and dispossession. 

‘The fact that the tournament’s namesake is to honour an individual who uses fear and corruption to accumulate riches which he then uses to further suppress freedoms and curtail human rights, should be an indicator enough that the good game of soccer is being taken to the sewers, and this tournament will forever taint the good name of these two soccer giants for having dared to give credibility to a king who sits executive over cold blooded murder and the incarceration of innocent citizens.’

The Communist Party of Swaziland in a statement said the participation of the two football giants in the tournament undermined the efforts of democrats to isolate the King.

In an open letter to Irvin Khoza, Chairman of Orlando Pirates Football Club and Kaizer Motaung, Executive Director, Kaizer Chiefs Foodball Club, the Swaziland Solidarity Network said, ‘It is clear from the name of the event that this is not just a sporting event meant to promote goodwill but rather a political event meant to legitimise a despot who has lost credibility in the eyes of the world and the country that he rules with an iron fist.’

See also

CALL TO BOYCOTT KING’S SOCCER CUP
http://swazimedia.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/call-to-boycott-kings-soccer-cup.html

LACK OF DEMOCRACY BAD FOR ECONOMY

The lack of democracy in Swaziland is a substantial risk to the kingdom’s growth, according to a World Bank report. 

And, Tibiyo Taka Ngwane, the conglomerate owned by the royal family, deters private companies from operating and thereby boosting the kingdom’s economy.

Swaziland is ruled by King Mswati as an absolute monarch. Political parties are banned from taking part in elections and the King chooses the government and top judges. Groups advocating for democracy in Swaziland are banned under the Suppression of Terrorism Act and dissenters are jailed.
 
The King also controls large parts of the Swazi economy through Tibiyo and holds most of the land in Swaziland ‘in trust for the Swazi nation’.

The World Bank report, called the Country Partnership Strategy for the kingdom of Swaziland 2015 – 2018, said, ‘Perceptions about lack of voice and accountability and weak rule of law hamper growth and development. The limitations on the rights to participate and form political parties deprives the citizenry of political competition and electoral feedback to prioritize policy choices.

‘The regular arrest of pro-democracy activists contributes to pushing Swaziland low on the political freedoms scale and high in the rankings for perceptions of corruption. Transparency International ranks Swaziland 82 among 177 countries on its Corruption Perception Index.’

The World Bank added, ‘The political and governance risks are expected to be substantial’ during the coming years.

It said, ‘The governance system in Swaziland leaves room for political interference, policy reversals, vested interests, nepotism and corruption which can adversely affect the selection and prioritization of sectoral investments, as well as the effective implementation of programs.’

It added that programs that the World Bank would support, including those to alleviate poverty and stimulate economic growth, ‘can be particularly vulnerable to such risks, if the project beneficiaries become direct competitors to established vested interest’.

The World Bank consulted various groups within Swaziland, including ‘the donor community, civil society and the private sector’ in compiling its report.

The World Bank concluded, ‘All parties consulted agree on limitations in state capacity which undermines implementation of policies and service delivery. Some stakeholders identified the lack of political will to review the current system of Governance and the separation of powers. Cases of imprisonment of media representatives and unionists demonstrate that the Swazi public has no mechanism through which to voice their concerns.

The World Bank report also criticised King Mswati’s conglomerate, popularly known as Tibiyo.

It said, ‘Direct intervention by the state in economic sectors also seems to be a deterrent. The state is invested in key economic sectors through state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and the company owned by the royal family – Tibiyo Taka Ngwane. These institutions operate in multiple economic sectors including agriculture, transport, finance, tourism and housing, which put them in direct competition with private players, creating conflicts of interest in several sectors. 

‘Furthermore, some SOEs function as regulators in their sectors, and are responsible for charging levies on imports by private enterprises of products that they themselves are selling.

‘This creates another set of conflicts of interest and potential opportunities for corruption. The overall result is further uncertainty among investors.’

See also

KINGDOM’S WEALTH STAYS WITH THE KING
IMF TELLS SWAZILAND HOME TRUTHS
GOVT ‘SNEERS AT WORLD BANK REPORT’

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

ECONOMY SLUMP AFTER TRADE SANCTIONS

The trade sanctions imposed by the United States because of King Mswati III’s poor record on human rights will contribute to a slump in the kingdom’s economy, a senior Central Bank of Swaziland (CBS) official said.

On 1 January 2015, the US withdrew Swaziland’s trading benefits under the Africa Growth Opportunities Act (AGOA) after the kingdom ruled by King Mswati as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch refused to accept democratic change.

Swaziland had previously been able to export to the United States without having to pay tariffs. In June 2015 it was reported that in the six months since the loss of AGOA benefits, at least 3,000 jobs had been lost in the textile industry, dominated by Taiwanese companies.

CBS General Manager: Economic Policy Research and Statistics Bhadala Mamba told a pensions funds investment forum in Swaziland, ‘Going forward, economic growth will continue to slump and pickup around 2017, this is because of shocks in the local economy because of AGOA.’

The US had wanted Swaziland to implement the full passage of amendments to the Industrial Relations Act; full passage of amendments to the Suppression of Terrorism Act; full passage of amendments to the Public Order Act; full passage of amendments to sections 40 and 97 of the Industrial Relations Act relating to civil and criminal liability to union leaders during protest actions; and establishing a code of conduct for the police during public protests.

In June 2014, announcing the withdrawal of AGOA, a White House spokesperson said, ‘The decision to withdraw Swaziland’s AGOA eligibility comes after years of engaging with the Government of the Kingdom of Swaziland on concerns about its implementation of the AGOA eligibility criteria related to worker rights.’

In Swaziland political parties are banned from taking part in elections and King Mswati choses the government and top judges. Groups advocating for democracy are outlawed as terrorists under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.

Mr Mamba told the forum that another factor to affect the Swazi economy badly was the closure of the Ngwenya iron mine.

He did not reveal that this mine was closed after King Mswati, who owned 25 percent of the mine withdrew US$10 million from the company to purchase a private jet for himself. Sihle Dlamini, the King’s representative on the board of directors then stopped the mine from trading. 

Eventually it had debts of US$4 million when it was legally wound up in December 2014and more than 700 jobs were lost. King Mswati took the US$10 million loan from the company less than six months after it started trading which he refused to pay back when it hit difficulties. 

A compensation claim for at least US$141 million has been prepared by Southern Africa Resources Ltd (SARL), the company that owned half the mine, against the Kingdom of Swaziland at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). The Swazi Government owned 25 percent of the mine and King Mswati also had 25 percent which he held ‘in trust for the Swazi nation’.

See also

HOW SWAZI KING DESTROYED IRON MINE
KING COSTS 3,000 WORKERS THEIR JOBS

Monday, 22 June 2015

KING WINS JET CASE ON A TECHNICALITY

The company that sued King Mswati III of Swaziland for US$3.5 million in unpaid bills relating to his luxury private jet has lost its case on a legal technicality.

But, the Appeal Court in Ontario, Canada, said the issue of the unpaid debt could still be pursued at a different court. 

Air Leasing (SG Air) had sued in the Canadian courts under the Repair and Storage Liens Act. It said it had paid the money for repairs and upgrades to the King’s private jet, a MacDonnell Douglas DC-9 jet (also known as MD87). It had expected the money to be repaid by King Mswati, but this did not happen.

The Appeal Court in Ontario in a judgment dated 17 June 2015 decided that SG Air was not eligible to sue under the Repair and Storage Liens Act because the company was not an aircraft repairer and it did not undertake the repairs to the jet aircraft itself. The court accepted that SG Air might have paid the money for other companies to make upgrades to the jet.

The court said the issue of the unpaid debt was not within its jurisdiction and this would have to be pursued elsewhere.

The Appeal Court denied a request from King Mswati’s lawyers to release a US$3.5 million letter of credit the Swazi Government was forced to deliver in order to get the jet released from the custody of the court in May 2015.

The letter will still be held in trust in a bank in case SG Air decides to appeal the decision to the Canadian Supreme Court.

SG Air has not yet said if it will appeal the decision.

This should bring to a conclusion a story that began in May 2010 when, in the depths of Swaziland’s worst financial crisis in its history, King Mswati III secretly bought himself a private jet for US$11.45 million.

He then committed himself to paying another US$6 million over five months for luxury modifications.

While this was happening the Swazi Government, which he handpicked, was slashing department budgets and public services by E1.5 billion (US$150 million) in an attempt to keep the kingdom out of bankruptcy. Seven in ten Swazis continue to live in abject poverty with incomes of less than US$2 per day.

In December 2010, unable or unwilling to pay his debts, the King sold the plane to Millers Capital, a Singapore-based investment company, for US$7.5 million – US$3.95 million less than he paid for it five months earlier. In April 2012, he bought the plane back from Millers for US$9.5 million – US$2 million more than he had sold it. He then claimed to the Swazi people that the plane had been donated to him by development partners.

Papers presented to an Ontario court on 9 April 2015 revealed that on 20 May 2010, SG Air, a company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, sold the jet to Inchatsavane, a company whose sole shareholder was King Mswati, for US$11.45 million. The sale was for the shell aircraft and engines and did not include the interior.

There was an additional agreement between Inchatsavane and Goderich Aircraft Inc (GAI) of Ontario, Canada, to modify the interior of the aircraft for a price of US$6 million, which was to be paid by the King’s company in instalments between 7 June 2010 and 8 November 2010.

In November 2010 GAI said that Inchatsavane was in arrears of payments by about US$2.6 million.

A close business associate of King Mswati introduced him to Millers Capital to assist Inchatsavane to obtain financing to pay off the debt.

On 30 December 2010, Millers Capital bought the aircraft from Inchatsavane for US$7.5 million, of which US$3 million went to GAI to pay off the arrears and US$4.5 million went to the King through his company Inchatsavane.

The court papers alleged that there was a verbal agreement between Millers Capital and Inchatsavane that the King would be allowed to repurchase the plane at a later date for US$9.5 million.

While the King was making this secret deal to secure the future of his private luxury jet, the Swazi economy was in free-fall. The mismanagement of the Swazi economy was so grave that in August 2010 both the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank refused to support Swaziland’s attempt to raise a US$500 million loan from the African Development Bank.

In August 2011, GAI said it was insolvent and could not complete the upgrading of the aircraft. SG Air agreed to fund the continuing upgrading on the understanding that the King’s company Inchatsavane would repurchase the aircraft from Millers Capital for US$9.5 million.

The court papers stated that if Inchatsavane did not buy back the plane, SG Air had an understanding with Millers Capital that the aircraft would be sold and SG Air would recover its expenses from that sale.
As of 17 April 2012, the costs paid by SG Air on behalf of Inchatsavane for the modifications to the jet totalled US$3.275 million. 

SG Air paid a further US$1.37 million in connection with repairs and improvements to the plane. This took the total amount payable to more than US$4.6 million.

The upgrades were all to increase the luxuriousness of the jet and had nothing to do with ensuring the King’s security. The court papers stated the jet had nothing in it ‘making it unique or necessary for HMK [His Majesty the King] to conduct any state / sovereign business’.

The papers added the aircraft had, ‘no missile detection  system, no military radar, no ammunition resistant steel, no in-flight refuelling connection, nor does it have any advanced avionics and defences or electronic counter measures to interfere with enemy radar. 

‘Practically speaking, the aircraft is an “ordinary” airplane retrofitted with luxury amenities.’

The King through his company Inchatsavane repurchased the jet on 18 April 2012 for US$9.5 million from Millers capital, through Wells Fargo in its capacity as trustee. This was in line with the verbal agreement they had made in December 2010.

The government which is hand-picked by King Mswati, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, made several public statements in April 2012 to say the jet had been donated to the King as a gift by ‘development partners’.

This was the first public announcement made about the plane, although it had originally been purchased nearly two years earlier in May 2010.

The King’s Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini, said on government-controlled radio that the King had been given the jet as a birthday gift, ‘from development partners and friends of the King, to be used by their majesties for travels abroad’.

Government spokesperson Percy Simelane said at the time, ‘The donor has asked to remain anonymous and we stand by that agreement.  We don’t owe anybody an apology for having been lucky to have someone purchase a jet for the King.’ 

In April 2015, the court papers stated that although Inchatsavane had not remitted the outstanding monies owed, SG Air did not press for payment ‘aggressively’. But, by November 2014, more than two-and-a-half-years after the plane’s repurchase, SG Air told the King it was ‘imperative’ that it be repaid.

To facilitate a speedy resolution, SG Air agreed with King Mswati that US$3.5 million should be paid to SG Air as ‘full and final’ settlement of the costs in connection with the aircraft. By making this offer, SG Air wrote off US$1.1 million of the debt.

By 16 December 2014, the debt had not been paid and SG Air succeeded in obtaining an attachment of the plane for unpaid debts of the aircraft which was in Goderich, Ontario, for routine maintenance. The plane was eventually released after the Swazi Government delivered a letter of credit for US$3.5 million which is being held in trust in a bank until the court case is concluded. This guarantees the King will be able to pay the debt if the court orders him to.

See also

SWAZI KING NOT ABOVE LAW IN CANADA
SWAZI KING IS ABOVE THE LAW, COURT TOLD
WHO PAID FOR SWAZI KING’S JET
REVEALED: COST OF FLYING KING’S JET
SWAZI MPs CONFUSED OVER KING’S JET
REVEALED: DETAILS OF KING’S NEW JET
KING'S COMPANY AT CENTRE OF JET ROW
SWAZI KING ‘REFUSED TO PAY JET DEBT’
SWAZI KING’S JET HELD FOR UNPAID DEBTS
‘SWAZI KING TO BUY US$44m PRIVATE JET’
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2015/04/swazi-king-to-buy-44m-private-jet.html