Friday, September 29, 2017

SWAZI KING DEALS WITH $18bn BANKRUPT



King Mswati III of Swaziland is trying to do a business deal with an American conglomerate that has been in bankruptcy protection for two years after owing US$18 billion.

He wants Caesars Palace, famous for its casinos, to run the proposed International Convention Centre (ICC) and hotel in Ezulwini.

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, reported on Thursday (28 September 2017) that he and government ministers had discussed with Caesars Palace management at the hotel in Las Vegas a plan for the potential of the proposed ICC.

The Observer reported, ‘The meeting took place after an hour’s tour of the hotel yesterday where His Majesty the King was given a full display of what it has to offer by President of Caesars Palace Gary Selesner. The main attraction is the gaming at the Casinos. The hotel also has state of the art entertainment facilities and meeting halls.’

The newspaper devoted part of its front page to the visit and also published a story with four photographs of the meeting inside written by‘The King’s Office Correspondent.’ It said the Caesars Palace management had promised to submit a proposal on what it would cost to manage the ICC and hotel.

The report said Caesars had grown through development of new resorts, expansions and acquisitions, and now operates casinos on three continents.

What it did not report (but the information is freely available) was that Caesars Entertainment Operating Corp (Caesars Palace’s main operating unit) filed in the United States for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January 2015 to protect itself from creditors who were owed US$18 billion. In January 2017 Reuters news agency reported that a deal had been made with courts to shed US$10 billion of the debt. The company will be reorganised as part of the deal.

In a report on media freedom in Swaziland in 2013, the Media Institute of Southern Africa described the Swazi Observer as a  ‘pure propaganda machine for the royal family’.

Members of the Swazi Royal Family are no strangers to Las Vegas. In 2012 it was reported that three of the King’s wives (who at the time numbered 13) travelled to Las Vegas with an entourage of about 65 people on a multimillion-dollar spending spree and vacation.  They reportedly stayed in 10 separate villas – each costing E20,000 (US$2,400) per night.

The Queens on the trip were named by the Mail and Guardian newspaper in South Africa as LaNgangaza née Carol Dlamini, LaMagongo née Nontsetselo Magongo and LaNkambule née Phindile Nkambule. 

Reports said the trip would cost the Swazi taxpayers at least E36 million (US$4.6 million). Seven in ten of the King’s subjects live in abject poverty, with incomes of less than US$2 a day. Political parties are banned in the kingdom and all forms of prodemocracy protest are quashed by state forces.

The Mail and Guardian reported at the time that funding for the trip was supplemented by money from the national fund Tibiyo which is supposed to be held in trust for the nation. A ‘large sum of cash’ was understood to have been withdrawn, it said.

The plan for the E1 billion ICC that includes a five-star hotel is being led by the Government of Swaziland through the Millennium Projects Management Unit within the Ministry of Economic Planning and Development. Government has said it will fund the project.

It is proposed the centre will be able to accommodate 4,500 guests at any one time and include a secure chamber room to take 53 heads of state. Other features include a 3,500-seat banqueting hall and a 1,500-seat theatre. It is proposed the centre will be completed ahead of the African Union summit due to be held in Swaziland in 2020.

See also

SWAZI QUEENS OFF ON SHOPPING SPREE

SWAZI QUEENS’ HISTORY OF EXCESS

QUEENS ON US$10 MILLION VACATION

Thursday, September 28, 2017

ARMED POLICE END STUDENT PROTEST



Armed police escorted students from a Swaziland college off the campus after they complained about the quality of their food.

Now, the Swaziland College of Technology (SCOT) has been closed indefinitely after a class boycott.

The Swazi Observer reported on Wednesday (27 September 2017) that students vandalised property. The students had entered the kitchen at breakfast time as part of a protest.

The newspaper said the main grievance of the students was shrinking food portions at meal times and unpaid allowances. 

The Times of Swaziland reported, ‘According to students who spoke on condition of anonymity, it all started during breakfast when they were told that there was no more milk for their soft porridge.

‘Other reported irregularities are said to be that some students were served eggs as protein during lunch while others were dished meat. 

‘They said this had been going on for some time and when they enquired from the college authorities about the matter, they were told that the institution had no money.’

See also

STUDENTS ARRESTED AT COURT HOUSE

POLICE ‘TORTURE’ STUDENTS IN CELLS

PROTESTS CLOSE SWAZILAND UNIVERSITY

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

NURSES STRIKE OVER DRUG SHORTAGES



Nurses in Swaziland intend to strike in protest against the shortage of drugs in the kingdom.

They will march the streets of the capital Mbabane on Friday (29 September 2017) to deliver a petition to the Swazi Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini.

Swaziland Democratic Nurses Union (SWADNU) President Bheki Mamba said there were also a number of other grievances and health workers felt the government was ignoring them.

The Sunday Observer newspaper in Swaziland reported (24 September 2017) there were shortages of drugs for a range of illnesses and conditions including epilepsy, hypertension, diabetes, ulcers and treatments for HIV positive people.

It added, ‘Not only have the hospitals and clinics run out of drugs, they also do not have of alcohols and spirits used in disinfecting apparatus, bandages and gloves as supplies have also hit an all-time low.’

The Ministry of Health denied there were shortages.

The shortage of drugs has been ongoing in Swaziland for years. The government which is handpicked by King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, often fails to pay its bills to suppliers.

In June 2017, Swazi Senator Prince Kekela told parliament that at least five people had died as a result of the shortage of medicines in Swaziland.

At the time it was reported that about US$18 million was owed to drug companies in May 2017 and they had suspended delivery of medicines until bills were paid. 

As ordinary people died in the health crisis Prime Minister Dlamini revealed that King Mswati and his mother paid for him to travel to Taiwan for his own medical treatment.  Dlamini was not elected PM by the people of Swaziland. He was personally appointed by the King, as were all other government ministers and top judges in the kingdom. None of Swaziland’s senators are elected by the people.

In 2014, at least 44 children died and many hundreds were hospitalised during an outbreak of diarrhoea. The Ministry of Health said it could not afford readily-available drugs. Then, the Government spent US$1.7 million on top of the range BMW cars for itself.

About 680,000 doses of life-saving rotavirus vaccine could have been purchased for the cost of the 20 new BMW X5 sports utility vehicles, which would be enough to treat every child in the kingdom. The cars were for government ministers and top officials.

The purchase was one of many example of irresponsible spending in the kingdom.

In March 2014, US$600,000 was spent on the opening ceremony for the Sikhuphe Airport which was renamed King Mswati III Airport. The airport has been widely criticised outside of Swaziland as a vanity project for the King.

See also

DRUG SHORTAGE CRISIS DEEPENS

SWAZI GOVT ‘KILLING ITS OWN PEOPLE’

KINGDOM BOTTOM IN WORLD HEALTH RANKING