HLANE: King Mswati allegedly sent Tibiyo TakaNgwane Managing Director Absalom Themba Dlamini to forcefully grab a multi-million sugarcane project that was funded by the European Union(EU) to assist Hlane residents.
An independent investigation by this Swaziland News uncovered that after the project was grabbed by the King and his relative Gadla Tfwala, who happens to be a brother to Queen Mother Ntombi Tfwala, the residents who are members of Takhamuti Farmers Association are now living in poverty and some of their children were forced to drop out of school.
Eswatini, a tiny Kingdom situated in Southern Africa and ruled by King Mswati as an absolute Monarch has about 70% of the population living below the poverty line, some of the citizens survive through subsistence farming.
Evidence in our possession that include electronic recordings suggests that on or around the 9th November 2016, King Mswati allegedly sent Tibiyo TakaNgwane Managing Director Themba Dlamini, Sylvia Mtsetfwa, the then Lubombo Regional Administrator(RA) and Moses Vilakati, the then Minister of Agriculture and Cooperative to inform the residents that he was taking over the project.
This was after the King allegedly held a meeting with Absalom Themba Dlamini and the Lubombo Regional Administrator where he expressed anger that the residents took his Hlane Governing Council headed by the Queen’s brother Gadla Tfwala to court over a dispute where the King’s Council was grabbing the project from the residents.
“The King is very angry that he has been taken to court by the residents and he has sent me to inform you that for that reason, he is taking over the project and has appointed his own Committee to oversee it. Utsi Okandaba ngalesizatfu lesengisibekile, lama-Association lekutsiwa akhona lana, atawufa, they are dissolved. Kute lenye Association letawuba khona lana, akuna-Constitution itosebenta lana,i-Constitution ngiyo iNgwenyama(meaning: The King said just because you took him to court, he has decided to dissolve all Associations here, no Constitution will apply, the King is the Constitution” ,said the Tibiyo TakaNgwane Managing Director(MD) in an audio recording in possession of this publication, he was addressing the residents during a meeting held at Hlane Inkhundla.
A questionnaire was sent to the Tibiyo MD where he was asked to respond and clarify why the King grabbed the project from the residents, however, he had not responded at the time of compiling this report.
Reached for comments, Senator Sylvia Mtsetfwa, the then Lubombo Regional Administrator who was part of the meeting confirmed knowledge of the matter but declined to comment further saying she was no longer the Regional Administrator.
“I am aware of the matter but can’t comment because I’m no longer the Lubombo Regional Administrator” ,said the Senator briefly.
But a woman who happens to be a member of Takhamuti Farmers Association told this publication that before their project was grabbed by the King, they were subjected to bullying and intimidation by the Hlane traditional leaders.
“We approached the then Regional Administrator Sylvia Mtsetfwa and she told us to keep quiet otherwise our homes would be demolished and we would be evicted from the area, we don’t know what to do now” ,said the resident.
Reached for comments by this Swaziland News, Boy Nketjane, the Chairman of Takhamuti Farmers Association said they now live in poverty such that even their children dropped out of school after their project was grabbed by the King and the Royal Hlane Council.
“We literally struggled to establish this sugarcane project such that we even approached Swazi Bank for a loan and after realizing that the loan was not enough, we wrote to the European Union(EU) seeking assistance and indeed, we received funding. It's very painful that just when we were enjoying the dividends after working hard, the project was grabbed from us and now we are living in poverty and our children are dropping out of school” ,said the Chairman.
A questionnaire was sent to Government Spokesperson Sabelo Dlamini, however, he had not responded at the time of compiling this report.
It has been reported that this is not the first royalty grabbed projects meant to assist Swazis living below the poverty line, Tibiyo TakaNgwane, the Swaziland Women Economic Empowerment Trust(SWEET) are some of the various projects established by Swazis that were grabbed by royalty.
When this publication reached Gadla Tfwala, the brother to the King's Mother and influential member of the Hlane Governing Traditional Council , he dropped the call after several attempts by this investigative journalist.
It has been disclosed that the residents who are members of the sugarcane Association tried in vain to have their matter addressed through the courts and the traditional structures, however, all their efforts were unsuccessful as the matter involves the King.
Reached for comments, Mlungisi Makhanya, the President of the People’s United Democratic Movement(PUDEMO) said as a political organization, they consistently warned Swazis that the King with his absolute power remains the biggest problem in this country.
“We have been saying as PUDEMO that the biggest problem in this country is the King with his absolute power. This is the time to rise-up, we call upon our people to participate in the process of bringing change in the country, otherwise the suffering will continue” said the PUDEMO President.