King Mswati III, the autocratic King in Swaziland and soon-to-be Chair of SADC, has been exposed for misleading the 15-nation community that his kingdom was capable of holding the organisation's 36th Summit.
Swaziland is so poor and lacking in infrastructure that is has been unable to find living accommodation for all those wanting to attend the Summit. A call went out this week for people to offer up spare houses to delegates.
King Mswati who has been a controversial choice as the next Chair of the Southern African Development Community has used the Summit as part of his campaign to convince his subjects that Swaziland will be a 'first-world' nation by 2022.
The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom where King Mswati rules as sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch, reported on Wednesday (24 August 2016), 'a number of the delegates found themselves with no accommodation as most of the hotels and lodges along the Mbabane/ Ezulwini/ Manzini corridor are fully booked. It was gathered that a search for people who own houses that could be used to accommodate some of the delegates was instituted.
'A government official, who is part of the committee responsible for welcoming SADC delegates, said they were currently running around trying to get accommodation for the stranded delegates.'
The Times reported, 'Director of the SADC Unit Chazile Magongo said it was the responsibility of the Ministry of Tourism and Environmental Affairs to provide accommodation for SADC delegates.'
The situation on the ground contradicts the message that King Mswati's supporters have been spreading in recent weeks that the kingdom was able to support such a prestigious Summit. Seven in ten of King Mswati's 1.3 million subjects live in abject poverty with incomes of less than two US dollars a day.
The King has been a controversial choice of SADC Chair because Swaziland is the only one of 15 SADC nations where political parties are banned from taking part in elections. King Mswati chooses the government and no members of the Swazi Senate are elected by the people.
King Mswati had used the Summit to try to impress that his kingdom was a developed country.
Mbongeni Mbingo, editor-in-chief of the Swazi Observer, a series of newspapers in effect owned by the King, wrote as recently as Sunday (21 August 2016), 'The King's vision has always been about showing that we are capable of just like the bigger countries in the region, to stage as successful an event as them - and that we can also demonstrate that while we are quite small and have a stunted economy, we can be counted on to show that we are indeed a nation in progress."
He added, 'Prince Hlangusempi informed the media, this past week, that Swaziland had always opted against hosting the Summit, when its opportunity to host came up. It was never ready, and His Majesty always felt that it was not the right time to do so.
'However, when the opportunity availed itself this year, and His Majesty was to become the next chairman of the SADC, he felt the opportunity could not be missed again - or it could be another 14 or so years before we could host.
'Therefore, he decided that it was time to accept this challenge. Since then, he has worked hard at ensuring that the country does not do an average job. This meant we had to get the facilities to match our ambition.'
Source: Swazi Media Commentary.