By Richard Rooney
Swazi Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini who was at the centre of controversy last year (2011) when it was revealed he bought Swazi nation land for himself at a price massively below its true value, has a personal fortune of E12 million (US$1.56 million) it has been revealed. Among his assets are E392,000 worth of shares in Swazi Empowerment (Pty) Limited (SEL), a company that in turn has a 19 per cent shareholding with MTN Swaziland, the monopoly mobile phone operator in the kingdom.
Dlamini is the man in charge of the government-controlled parastatal, Swaziland Posts and Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC) and is therefore a key decision maker in the affairs of Swaziland’s national posts and telecommunication. But now we know that Dlamini also personally holds shares in SEL which in turn has a major shareholding in MTN, Swaziland and the only competitor for SPTC.
This raises questions about Dlamini’s impartiality when making decisions about SPTC. In September 2011, when reporters first got wind of Dlamini’s possible share holdings in SEL, Musa Holphe, of the Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Organisations, wrote, ‘Since SEL’s main, if not its only, investment is MTN Swaziland it is important to understand that the value of the SEL shares will be slashed if anything happens that affects MTN’s profitability.
‘This government has been at the centre of many decisions that affect the ability of SPTC to properly compete with MTN. ‘Each government decision seems designed to hamper SPTC and enable MTN to continue its monopoly and unfairly increase the wealth of its shareholders which as we now know includes the private wealth of the prime minister. “It is shocking to see how much money is generated by MTN and that, in spite of the grinding poverty of the majority of us; vast riches are still secretly flowing into the pockets of the elite.’”
MTN was also in the news last year when US Ambassador to Swaziland Earl Irvine accused King Mswati of interfering in the sale of shares of MTN – so he could buy them himself at a cheaper rate. Irvine wrote in a confidential cable leaked to WikiLeaks that the King also caused the ousting of Tebogo Mogapi, the MTN chief executive officer in Swaziland because he opposed the Swaziland Government’s ‘efforts to use the MTN network for surveillance on political dissidents’.
Dlamini was illegally appointed Prime Minister in 2008 by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. Details of Dlamini’s fortune are contained in a statement of assets and liabilities that was submitted by the Prime Minister to the Swazi Integrity Commission last week, leaked to the Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only independent daily newspaper. It reports Dlamini’s assets include buildings, furniture, equipment, motor vehicles, livestock, cash at banks, insurance policies, shares in private companies, listed shares and unit trusts.
Meanwhile, seven in ten of Swaziland’s one million population live in abject poverty, earning less than US$2 per day. Dlamini’s wealth maybe huge compared to the average Swazi person, but it is as nothing compared to King Mswati. He was estimated by Forbes in 2009 to have a personal net fortune of US$200 million.
Courtesy of AfricaFiles