King Mswati III has a “new” jet with space for his 13 wives as well as his unknown number of children, their minders, his chefs and all of his bodyguards.
The Airbus A340-300, which previously belonged to China Airlines in Taiwan, has enough range to fly directly from Swaziland to Taiwan,Netwerk24 reported.
It is Mswati’s second plane. His other, “old” McDonnell Douglas DC-9 will now only be used on shorter flights. The Swazi parliament announced earlier this year that Mswati needed a bigger plane to get him to all his international commitments.
“That is nonsense,” said Bongani Masuku, member of the executive committee of the die People’s United Democratic Movement (Pudemo), one of Swaziland’s main opposition parties.
Mswati’s new toy is far more extravagant than President Jacob Zuma’s troublesome Boeing Inkwezi. The Air force has halted the process of buying a second jet. The options that Armscor presented to them did not meet the requirements, spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini said.
Mswati previously owned a passenger jet that was too expensive to run.
The new jet recently arrived in Hamburg, where the cabin was refitted. The refitment might cost even more that the plane, which is on the market for R208 million – far less than what Swaziland budgeted for the purchase.
Inkwazi’s interior makeover cost R240 million ten years ago and it was nothing fancy. Mswati’s plane’s cabin is about three times bigger.
Masuku called the purchase a gross injustice to the poor.
“The average life expectancy is about 35, mostly due to poverty, the collapse of the health care system and the large gap between rich and poor. But Mswati is the 15th richest monarch in the world and according to Forbes magazine his wealth is estimated at more than R1.6bn – or more, because nobody knows for sure.
The king lives in a world different to the one the rest of Swaziland inhabits. He makes the decisions and parliament is just there to look pretty and they don’t have a say.”
It is not the first time the king has been in the spotlight because of his luxurious toys. His DC-9 was impounded in Canada last year because he allegedly owed businessman Shanmuga Rethenam R56 million for the interior decorating of that plane. Mswati earlier told his parliament that this plane was “a gift”.
A Canadian court later found in Mswati’s favour and the plane was released, the Swaziland Observer reported.
Swaziland is one of a handful of countries that still has ties with Taiwan.