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.
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