MISA-Swaziland | e-Forum
March 12 2014
Swaziland, a country of 1.2 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, unveiled a new airport last week. However news agency AFP said the $280-million airport is “years away from being operational and has been dubbed a ‘white elephant’ by critics”.
During construction, which began 11 years ago, the airport was known as Sikhuphe Airport. At the opening on Friday 7 March its new name was revealed as King Mswati III International Airport.
King Mswati has ruled Swaziland since 1986.
AFP reported the $280-million cost is “equivalent to almost 10 percent of the impoverished mountain kingdom’s 2012 Gross Domestic Product”.
The article further noted: “Authorities in the sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarchy hope the airport will help attract tourism and foreign investment. But it has yet to be granted an operating licence by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and no airlines are expected to make use of the airport for years to come, prompting concerns about the viability of the project.”
Some of the more inconvenient facts pointed out by the AFP article were suppressed or glossed over by most of the Swazi media, which does not openly question or directly criticise the actions of the king or the monarchy. Most of the reports that were published gave exaggerated accounts of events.
“His Majesty King Mswati III had everyone in stitches of laughter yesterday when he humourously blasted critics of the new King Mswati III International Airport,” reported the nation’s only privately owned daily newspaper the Times of Swaziland.
“Exuding an extra-ordinary sense of humour and charisma, the King, who was visibly in a jovial mood, literally joked about the criticism that was levelled at the airport when it was at its infant construction stages.”
MISA-Swaziland’s e-Forum went along last Friday to document the opening.