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King Mswati III International Airport, Swaziland

Residents demanding compensation for damage to their houses caused by blasting works for construction of King Mswati III International Airport, and the road serving the airport, have held repeated protests and blocked trucks from entering the quarry


Swaziland (Eswatini) embarked on construction of an airport in Sikhuphe in 2003. The project involved resettlement of local villagers in the area. New houses were built for affected residents, beginning in 2004 and continuing into 2005.[1] The new airport was initiated by King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. In June 2013, with the airport scheduled to open by the end of the year, the Mail and Guardian reported that independent observers had called the airport a waste of resources in 2003. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) had echoed these concerns, saying it should not be built as it would divert funding away from vital projects to fight poverty in Swaziland, with one in seven of its 1.1 million inhabitants living in abject poverty, earning less than US$2 per day. In contrast, the King enjoyed a lavish lifestyle - including a US$200 million fortune, 13 palaces, a private jet and fleets of expensive cars - a discrepancy that attracted criticism.[2]

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:King Mswati III International Airport, Swaziland
State or province:Lubombo region
Location of conflict:Malindza
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Ports and airport projects
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Land
Sand, gravel
Project Details and Actors
Project details

King Mswati III International Airport was part of King Mswati III’s millennium project investment initiative, which aimed to develop Swaziland as a leading tourism destination in the region. It was built to serve as Swaziland’s only international airport, serving as an international hub and designed to handle 300,000 passengers per year. Development of detailed design and tender documents, including a US$1 million feasibility study detailing an implementation and funding model, was completed by Egypt-based Arab Consulting Engineers. Funding for the airport was drawn from the government’s millennium fund. Phase 1, taking place from 2003 to 2005, comprised a 3,500 meter length runway, infrastructure and buildings. [1] Construction of the airport cost an estimated US$ 250 million.[8]

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Level of Investment for the conflictive projectUSD 250,000,000
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:2003
Company names or state enterprises:Inyatsi Construction Group Holdings from Swaziland - Construction of King Mswati III International Airport and access road to airport
Antroma from South Africa - Awarded contract for ground handling services including loading and offloading luggage bags
Arab Consulting Engineers from Egypt - Development of detailed design and tender documents, $1 million feasibility study
Eswatini Airlink from Swaziland - The only airline which has used King Mswati III International Airport
Relevant government actors:Government of Eswatini
Eswatini Civil Aviation Authority (ESWACAA), formerly Swaziland Civil Aviation Authority (SWACAA)
Ministry of Economic Planning and Development
Ministry of Public Works and Transport
Anti-Corruption Commission
Government of Taiwan
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local government/political parties
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Referendum other local consultations
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Noise pollution, Global warming, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage)
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Potential: Accidents
Other Health impactsIllnesses caused by pollutants emitted by aircraft
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood, Displacement, Specific impacts on women, Land dispossession
Potential: Violations of human rights, Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts
Other socio-economic impactsDamage to houses caused by blasting operations at quarry
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Institutional changes
Negotiated alternative solution
Strengthening of participation
Under negotiation
Application of existing regulations
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Residents who were resettled to make way for King Mswati III International Airport have demanded full and fair compensation since construction works began in 2003. Houses were damaged by quarry blasting works for the airport and the road built to serve it. Quarry works also impacted on a dam supplying water to people's farmland. Affected residents have taken legal action and held many protests, only to be met with continued delays and the government has conferred responsibility for payment of remaining compensation to Inyatsi Construction, the firm that built the airport.
Sources & Materials

[1] Sikhuphe International Airport, Airport Technology
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[2] KING’S AIRPORT ‘WILL BE UNUSABLE’, Swazi Media Commentary, 07/06/2013
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[3] ‘CORRUPTION’ AT KING’S AIRPORT, Swazi Media Commentary, 13/10/2013
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[4] TOWN WILL BE ESTABLISHED TO SUPPORT AIRPORT, Times of Swaziland, 08/03/2014
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[5] E5.9M FOR KM3 AIRPORT OPENING!, Times of Swaziland, 03/08/2014
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[6] Swazi International Airport still a white elephant, The Citizen, 09/09/2015
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[7] SIKHUPHE RESIDENTS DEMAND E80M COMPENSATION, Times of Swaziland, 01/10/2017
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[8] Swaziland: King's Airport Fails to Attract Airlines, AllAfrica, 18/07/2018
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[9] RESETTLED SIKHUPHE RESIDENTS DEMAND E48.1M, Times of Swaziland, 19/06/2020
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[10] Govt sets aside E6.9 million to compensate 162 Malindza residents, Independent News Eswatini, 19/10/2020
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[11] Malindza residents struggling with water supply, royal linked Inyatsi Construction destroyed dam, Swaziland News, 30/09/2021
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[12] Residents block trucks at quarry mine, Times of Eswatini, 10/11/2021
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[13] Malindza women affected by the construction of Mswati’s airport sleep in the forest, demand compensation., Swaziland News, 12/11/2021
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[14] Residents want E46m from Inyatsi in 2 days, Times of Eswatini, 17/11/2021
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[15] Breaking Down Barriers And Driving Innovation To Unlock Border, Penresa, 14/09/2019
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[16] Airport Development News, Momberger Airport Information, No. 1145, May 2021
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Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Malindza residents who were affected during the construction of Mswati’s airport protest, demand compensation, Swaziland News, 12/11/2021
[click to view]

Malindza residents block Inyatsi trucks from operating within the area, company allegedly destroyed dam, source of water for livestock within…, Swaziland News, 29/09/2021
[click to view]

Muzi Mamba, a resident of Malindza, says they are ready to die demanding compensation after their homes were affected by the Construction of Mswati’s airport, Swaziland News, 13/11/2021
[click to view]

Malindza Residents demand Compensation From Mswati's Government. Courtesy of Swaziland News, Eswatini Politics, 12/11/2021, Malindza women affected by construction of Mswati’s airport sleep in the forest, demand compensation.
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Rose Bridger, Stay Grounded mapping, email: [email protected]
Last update17/11/2021
Conflict ID:5717
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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