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KING’S JET WON’T BE SOLD

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image His Majesty the King meeting the team that brought back the plane before his departure to the Republic of China on Taiwan. (File Pic)

MBABANE – It is now final; the State jet, known as Siyinqaba, will not be sold.
Instead, it will be leased out to private and wealthy individuals.


This development means the country will now have three aircraft.
They would consist of two private jets (Siyinqaba and the jet being procured for E200 million from China Airlines), as well as one commercial airplane to be used by Africa’s newest airline, Swazi Air.
Swazi Air, which is yet to make its maiden flight to a number of African countries and the Middle East, has leased an aircraft for its operations.


Prime Minister Sibusiso Dlamini said the decision to keep and privately lease out Siyinqaba was taken after a due diligence process of business viability analysis.
He said it was decided that the aircraft would make a lot of money being leased out to private clients in its customised state.
The plane presently has a sitting capacity of 33, which includes a private cabin which was previously used by the King.


The PM said the government airplane would be kept in the country and leased to people who could afford it.
The aircraft is the McDonnell Douglas DC-9-87 (also known as an MD-87 jet). It was previously used by His Majesty the King for his trips abroad.
The jet is the subject of protracted court processes in Canada and the Virgin Islands, where Shanmuga ‘Shan’ Rethenam, who owns a company called SG Air, was suing the Swazi Government for US$1.5 million (about E15 million).
The former Salgaocar boss also sued Swaziland a sum of US$3.5m (about E35m) through his company SG Air.


He claimed that the country owed him money for repairs and modifications undertaken in the aircraft in 2012.
The case was heard in the Superior Court in Ontario, Canada, in June 2015 where the country won on a legal technicality.
A full bench of three judges of a court of appeal in Canada dismissed ‘Shan’s appeal.


The McDonnell Douglas DC-9 jet was subsequently released to the country in mid-March last year after the Swaziland Government provided a US$3.5m guarantee.
After losing in Canada, Rethenam filed another court application in the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court in the British Virgin Islands (BVI). Rethenam succeeded in getting a freezing order against the aircraft, whose effect was that government could not dispose of the aircraft or its engines until the court case over the alleged debt was resolved.
The court order was made in the BVI because that is where SG Air is incorporated.


The DC-9-87 is reportedly undergoing repairs in South Africa and one of its engines might be sent to the United Kingdom for further work.
The cost implication of having to keep three aircraft means a lot of money would be spent on servicing and maintaining the assets.
This would come on top of the fees paid for the aircraft. The country is expected to spend about E200 million (US$12.987 million) to purchase an aircraft from China Airlines in Taiwan. The jet to be customised for use by the King will be an A340-300 jet. In its present state, it has a sitting capacity of 300 people.


The country has also budgeted over E16 million for the country’s new commercial airline, Swazi Air.
The money would be used to lease and set up the airline.
Mgwagwa Gamedze, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, also said Siyinqaba would not be converted into a commercial aircraft because the country would make a loss in its operations.
“Our experience is that there is a lot of money the aircraft could make when rented out to private clients,” said the minister.
He said such clients included heads of State, prime ministers and other dignitaries.


He said there was a huge demand for such a facility globally.
The country is also working hard to keep the aircraft in good shape.
“We are maintaining it, such that when the time comes for it to be used for business, it will be ready,” he said.
He also said the King’s new aircraft was ideal because it had a huge carrying capacity. It will have enough space to carry His Majesty’s delegation each time he travelled.

 

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