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LOZITHA – There is a feeling among prominent politicians in the country that government should co-own Royal Villas Hotel with Tibiyo TakaNgwane.

The claim was necessitated by a story which appeared in the Times SUNDAY a few weeks ago to the effect that government was in the process of paying Tibiyo a sum of E40 million for the land on which the International Convention Centre and Five-Star Hotel are being built.

The land on which the two facilities are built belong to Tibiyo TakaNgwane.
After the publication of the story, this newspaper was inundated with calls from senior public officers arguing that government contributed a substantial amount of money to the construction of Royal Villas, formerly Smart Partnership Village.

Our three-week investigation into the issue did not show us specific amounts of money from government being channelled directly to the construction of the hotel.

Royal Villas was built in 2003.
A sum of E40 million was used to build the village-turned hotel. Costs for upgrades were not ascertained.

On March 24, 2004, Majozi Sithole, the then Minister of Finance, and now Governor of the Central Bank of Eswatini, delivered his budget speech; in it noting that the country hosted the Smart Partnership Dialogue in 2003.  

He could only say the event brought about some infrastructure development at the Ezulwini Village in terms of the road network, a facelift of the airport (referring to a revamped Matsapha International Airport) and the village itself.
“This also helped to improve the country’s profile in the international community as well as demonstrating that we have the potential to host meetings of such magnitude,” partly read his speech.

None of the current politicians seemed to be abreast with developments regarding the issue. However, one politician (name withheld) said government partly built Royal Villas, and should be a shareholder.

“I am sure government paid a lot of money for the construction of Royal Villas, but it’s a pity government is not a shareholder,” he said.
Percy Simelane, the Government Press Secretary, said the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development was the right ministry to direct questions; with senior officials there clueless about the issue, suggesting that the Ministry of Tourism and Environmental Affairs be contacted.

Reacting to concerns by certain MPs who spoke to this newspaper about the issue, Simelane said: “the MPs can raise it in Parliament and the responsible minister will respond.”
Moses Vilakati, the Minister of Tourism and Environmental Affairs, said he had tried to enquire about the issue, but none of the officers whom he contacted were of assistance. “I just don’t know anything about the issue,” he said.

Bheki Bhembe, the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, said he needed substantial time to thoroughly investigate the matter to see if there was a portion of public funds allocated to the construction of the hotel.
The principal secretary in the ministry of finance at that time was the late Musa Fakudze.

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