King Silent On US$10m Personal Loan [opinion]

King Mswati III of Swaziland has spoken publicly for the first time about the closure of the Ngwenya Iron Ore Mine, but he did not say why he took US$10 million from the company that ran the mine shortly before it went out of business or what he did with the money.

The King made a passing reference to the Ngwenya Iron Ore Mine, but did not mention it by name, during his speech opening the Swazi Parliament on Friday (19 February 2015).

The King, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, said ‘The effect of falling global prices of minerals, such as iron ore, was also evident in the mining sector where production was halted in the last quarter of 2014, following a plunge in international prices.

‘This problem has affected many services which resulted in job losses.’

The King has been at the centre of international attention after it was revealed that he took a US$10 million loan from SG Iron (formerly known as Salgaocar Swaziland) the company he awarded a licence to mine at Ngwenya. The King and Sihle Dlamini, his personal representative on the board of directors, were at the heart of events that led to SG Iron’s collapse.

It had debts of US$4 million when it was forced to cease trading in August 2014 and more than 700 jobs were lost. King Mswati took the loan from the company less than six months after it started trading which he refused to repay when the company hit difficulties.

The King, through his representative Dlamini, blocked the company from selling its iron ore, which meant the company had no income. It had reserves stockpiled that could have fetched at least US$5.5 million (more than enough to clear its debts) if sold when the company folded.

Despite repeated requests from SG Iron, the King’s personal representative, refused to allow the ore to be sold.

A compensation claim for at least US$141 million has been prepared by SARL against the Kingdom of Swaziland at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).

Source : Swazi Media Commentary