Taxpayers fund Mswati-Lungu bromance

The growing bonds of friendship between Swaziland’s King Mswati III and Zambian leader Edgar Lungu have reached new, but worrying, levels for the two countries’ citizens.

This is after Lungu was presented with a piece of land on the outskirts of Manzini in Swaziland.

The property in question was reportedly approved by the surveyor-general on March 12 2009 as a residential property owned by Rudolph Investments, before it was transferred to Lungu last year.

The deed of transfer for the 4 105m2 of land was done by Sidumo Valentine Mdladla Attorneys, more commonly known as SV Mdladla and Associates.

The Zambian minister of information and broadcasting, Dora Siliya, confirmed to the BBC that the country’s president was presented with the property by the Swazi king.

Siliya said there was nothing sinister with the donation because other world leaders have been given presents before, so those making a noise about the present were just making an issue out of nothing.

The presenter asked why the property was given to the president at the same time as Inyatsi Construction – a Swaziland-owned contractor – was given major contracts in Zambia.

Siliya said Inyatsi Construction got the job because of its track record and other jobs the company has done in its home country as well as in the region.

The property gift is reported to have sparked a debate in Zambia, where MPs criticised their president for abusing his position to venture into personal interests at the expense of Zambian taxpayers.

City Press learnt that during his first visit in July last year, Lungu was taken to the Hlane Royal National Park – the country’s largest game reserve – in eastern Swaziland, where he is said to have discovered that the landlocked kingdom did not have enough buffaloes.

On this trip, an invitation to attend the annual reed dance that was held from August 29 to September 4 was extended to Lungu.

As part of the warm relations, on September 3 last year, Lungu presented King Mswati with three buffaloes.

The buffalo donation led to the EU banning beef exports from Swaziland, fearing the meat could have foot-and-mouth disease. According to a 2016 report by the Central Bank of Swaziland, the country’s beef exports to EU markets were more than 500 tons per year. The report stated that these exports were one of the major foreign earners for the country, estimated to be close to R3 billion per year.

Local EU offices got word of the arrival of the buffaloes immediately after they were shipped into the country. In an attempt to protect the EU market, the country was notified about the export ban, pending investigations that would clear Swazi beef of foot-and-mouth disease.

The local ministry of agriculture convened an impromptu media conference, where it tried in vain to justify the importation of the buffalo as a gesture meant to boost the country’s tourism industry.

The ministry did not specify how long the ban would be in place, since tests on the buffaloes were still being conducted.

Blood samples were brought to South Africa early this week to undergo testing. The buffaloes have since been quarantined in eastern Swaziland.

Veterinary sources have disclosed that having the buffaloes may affect livestock farmers within a 10km radius from where the animals are kept.

Swaziland last had an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in 2001, which saw more than 260 infected cows being put down.

Another high-profile leader from Equatorial Guinea acquired two properties in Swaziland, but failure to remit R3m into government coffers by a senior Swazi lawyer has caused consternation.

Musa Dlamini, who once served as a legal advisor to the king and is a member of the Swaziland Judicial Service Commission, was tasked with processing transfers of two plots that were supposed to have cost him R3.7m.

The two properties, measuring close to 20 hectares, were purchased by the controversial Equatorial Guinea Vice-president Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue.

The Swazi government is now considering attaching Dlamini’s four-bedroom house so that a sum of more than R3m allegedly paid to him by Mangue can be retrieved.

The government ran an advert before November last year, wanting to sell his house.

According to a notice that appeared in court papers, the actual amount transferred into Dlamini’s law firm trust account was R3 719 200, which the lawyer allegedly did not remit to the Swaziland government.

“The Swaziland government hereby institutes action against the defendant for the non-payment of R3 719 200 outstanding, for monies from stamp and transfer duties of two farms in the Hhohho region,” reads part of the summons that were issued by the office of the attorney-general.

Further attempts to recover the money have seen the government attach a piece of land belonging to Dlamini.

Article originally published in the City Press

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