Up until recently you’d get an eyeful of this if you were taking the highway up to Mbabane, Swaziland’s capital.  I’d say it was at least 50m across and at least ten high.  How much does a billboard like that cost, bearing in mind they had to build the frame as well? An audacious move indeed. This monumental structure loomed large across the landscape. In fact, you could see it from far off, as you made your way up the snaking motorway from the Ezulwini Valley up to Mbabane.

That gave motorists enough time to truly take in the message, perhaps too much time.  “Attaining First World Status – A Vision Worth Striving For?” (Sure, OK. Anyone want to take a guess at how? Anyone? Perhaps by tackling the worst HIV AIDS rate in the world? Cutting down on expensive royal trips/palaces/Mercedes Benz motorcades?) To add insult to injury for the Swazi people who are no doubt all too aware of where their tax Emalangenis (Swazi currency) go…

And how about those ridiculous examples of first world status – evidently even the people suggesting Swazis strive for them couldn’t think of anything realistic. First Swazi on the moon? Maybe a nice Dubai skyscraper would give the Mbabane skyline that extra sparkle. Unfortunately the existing skyline is already dotted with uncompleted buildings quietly, and embarrassingly, rusting away.

You could argue that the jet plane taking off is something Swaziland is striving for already. Hell, they’re busy building a new “International” airport as we speak. Or, not quite, erm, building has halted due to lack of funds perhaps temporarily, perhaps not. Also they are building it in the middle of nowhere somewhere far enough from Mbabane and Manzini (the 2 big towns) that no one wants to drive there and not close to anything else. According to newspaper reports a lion was prowling the area they are building it in terrorising residents. That aught to give you an idea of just how remote the location is. There are a couple of other snags: Only one airline actually flies to Swaziland’s existing airport after their national carrier closed down. That airline is South African Airways so we’re hardly talking intercontinental travel.

Perhaps only the red sport scar stands out as a real possibility – and quite a few people drive them already. Somehow I don’t think those are the people the billboard was aimed at.

I say, “was” because it didn’t stay up long.  People in Swaziland don’t generally like to rock the boat yet, following the erection of the billboard there was, what qualifies in Swaziland, as an outcry. A couple letters to the paper and general mutterings of discontent.

And, although those in power will never openly admit they are wrong, the billboard was quietly taken down. Maybe, just maybe they realised that billboard was just the Wrong Thing to Do.


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