King Mswati III of Swaziland seems set to take delivery of a 375-seater private jet, if reports circulating in aviation circles on the Internet are correct.
The plane, an Airbus A340-300, is reportedly in Hamburg for cabin interior fitting. It was flown to the German city from Taipei in Taiwan.
The plane, according to the Skyliner-aviation website, was ferried to Hamburg after initial painting. The website published a photograph of the plane.
The Airbus has been given the registration identification B-18802 /3DC-SDF. The website said the jet was 'for Swazi King Mswati III'.
The purchase of the jet for the King, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch, has caused controversy.
In April 2016, Members of the Swaziland Parliament blocked a move to pay E96 million for a plane. The money had been allocated to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in the kingdom's annual budget announced in February 2016.
In February 2016 the Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, reported the E96 million (about US$6.6 million) was set aside for a jet for the King after members of the parliament, many of them appointed by the King, urged the Swazi Government to consider buying the King a plane to replace the DC-9 jet (also known as an MD-87) which he already has. It has been the subject of legal disputes in both Canada and the British Virgin Islands.
Once news of the intended spending was made public outside of Swaziland the King came in for heavy criticism. Swaziland is in the grip of a drought crisis and in February the Swazi Government declared a national emergency and said the kingdom would need E248 million (US$16 million) before the end of April 2016.
Within days, the MPs overturned their earlier decision and it was announced they had agreed to pay E200 million (US$13.8 million) - more than twice the original amount budgeted for - to China Airlines in Taiwan for an Airbus A340-300, built in 2001.
Unconfirmed reports circulating on the Internet said that King Mswati had refused to sign-off Swaziland's budget announced in February 2016 unless he got his jet.
The Observer reported the Ministry of Finance had 'listened and cancelled the allocation and the money taken to the Consolidated Funds'. This would allow it to be spent on other things.
Two days later on 7 April 2016, the Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom, reported that 'following a three-hour long caucus by both Members of Parliament (MPs) and senators in the Parliament canteen, the latter agreed that the E96m, which had been frozen by MPs, be released to pay a deposit to China Airlines, based in the Republic of China on Taiwan.'
The Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini, who was not elected to office but appointed directly by King Mswati, later presented a statement. The Times reported, '[T]he PM said following a Parliament resolution that government find a solution to ensure that Their Majesties are secured a mode of travel, they had sent a ministerial subcommittee headed by Chief Mgwagwa Gamedze, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, to look at the various options available.'
The newspaper reported, 'The balance for the Airbus A340-300, which has been identified, will be paid up in the 2017-2018 government financial year.
'The PM said the jet to be used by Their Majesties for international trips was a long range and, therefore, it did not have to make fuelling stops every now and then.'
Source: Swazi Media Commentary