Swaziland’s diverse transport service infrastructure is well developed and covers the spectrum of requirements for the movement of goods. Several operations specialising in various services operate within the country and are professionally run to high standards.

Transport sector regulations fall under the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, through which related bodies such as the Road Transportation Board, the Road Safety Office and the Civil Aviation Authority operate.

A protocol has been agreed upon to expand cooperation relating to infrastructure and services, and to establish, among other things, a viable and sustainable transport system. In this respect, an integrated transport policy is to be established which, among other clauses, will remove hindrances regarding the movement of people, goods and services.

Following the restructuring of the national airline, Airlink Swaziland, a South Africa based operation, was identified as a strategic partner and began operating in July 1999. Other airlines, including charter services, also operate within the country and the region, providing links between neighbouring states and international destinations, with various routing options available.

Regulations relating to private aircraft allow for the operators to fly in and out of Swaziland direct from any airfield in the country, without routing via Matsapha airport, provided the relevant authorities are notified two days in advance.

The Civil Aviation Authority at the Ministry of Transport and Communications controls this sector.

The airline was formed as a joint venture between the Swaziland Government (60%) and S.A. Airlink (40%) to take over the operations of Royal Swazi National Airways. It began functioning in July 1999, initially leasing Royal Swazi’s Fokker F28 aircraft to link Matsapha with Johannesburg and Dar-es-Salaam. The latter route was discontinued at the end of October 1999 and the frequency of flights to Johannesburg was increased, providing better connections to the rest of Africa and the world.

In June 2000 the F28 was replaced with a Jetstream J41 and an additional service was introduced to further improve access to and from Swaziland. The airline currently operates 26 return flights between Johannesburg and Matsapha each week.

The 37 employees comprise pilots, cabin attendants, aircraft technicians and passenger handling agents. An average of 4,000 passengers and 5,000 kg of cargo are carried each month.

The airline has alliances with South African Airways, South African Express and South African Airlink, and is a member of the Voyager Frequent Flyer programme.

Swaziland’s diverse industries require highly sophisticated road transport services for the movement of goods between Swaziland and neighbouring countries. Efficient movement within the country, to rail depots and the Matsapha inland clearance depot, from where export goods are railed to sea ports, is also essential.

A Memorandum of Understanding between Swaziland, South Africa, Botswana and Lesotho applies to cross border traffic and provides for high safety standards and the rationalisation of road traffic density. Operators may obtain permits, which are recognised among the countries concerned, through the Ministry of Public Works and Transport. Applications must be accompanied by a certificate of fitness for each vehicle and the permits are valid for one year or 30 return trips. An infrastructure cost recovery scheme ensures that operators pay a fair share towards road maintenance.

Although the transport of goods between other countries in the region entails separate permits, a common ruling for the SADC states is in hand which will streamline operations.

Legislation pertaining to road transportation was revised in 1997 and a new Road Transportation Bill was approved by cabinet. Clauses of particular importance include the recognition of mini-buses as a form of public transport and the provision for investigating trading patterns on the various bus routes. The legislation replaces the Act of 1963.

Specialised operators move all categories of commodities internally and across borders for delivery to ports for overseas shipment and to destinations in neighbouring countries. They also move goods into the country. These companies operate fleets of reliable, modern vehicles, which are often especially designed to accommodate specific types of commodities. They run fleets of reliable, modern vehicles and maintain high standards of safety and efficiency. The larger operators have their own workshops for vehicle maintenance and repairs.

Cargo Carriers
Cargo Carriers which marks 40 years of operating in Swaziland during 2001, is the largest transporter of its kind in the region. The Swaziland branch initially moved sugar cane with a fleet of just three vehicles but the company soon began to transport processed cane destined for export markets and has expanded along with the sugar industry. By 1970 the local operation comprised four branches at Mhlume, Big Bend, Simunye and the then newly developed industrial site at Matsapha. Cargo Carriers subsequently diverted into other commodities, including bulk fuel, and today is the country’s largest road transporter with about 145 registered vehicles.

The versatile GFLT (general freight & liquid tanker) is capable of carrying general dry goods as well as liquid petroleum products and the Swaziland registered GFLT, which operates in conjunction with Shell, realises excellent results. When Cargo Carriers was awarded the transport contract for the Simunye ethanol project in 1996, three new tankers for carrying the product to Durban for export were acquired. This investment entailed about E9.6 million and almost E4 million was subsequently budgeted for the Swaziland operation.

The ISO 9002 was successfully implemented at the Simunye branch and the other branches were subsequently upgraded to that status. This was a drive to increase operational efficiency and client service.

Cargo Carriers is geared to clients of all sizes and is involved in cross border work with several countries, including Namibia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia, providing a vital import and export link.

The company takes initiatives with Swazi empowerment by sub-contracting certain work to local transporters. In another development, the Big Bend branch has expanded into mechanical harvesting through a strategic partner and there is a possibility of expanding such in-field operations.

An E5 million investment in a computerised internal operations system at the Johannesburg head office has ensured even better customer service which also benefits the Swaziland clientele.

This secure, fast means of moving documents and parcels is available through several local concerns. They provide a door-to-door service regionally and world-wide and also handle the formalities involved in moving items between borders.

Since it was established in 1969, DHL has developed the largest international network in its field, utilising the latest technology and systems. Substantial investment has been made in both human and financial resources worldwide, ensuring excellent door-to-door service for all consignments. This service is extended to the Swaziland operation which opened in 1985, and where the company has built its reputation for reliability and speed.

DHL Swaziland’s operation includes two service centres based in Mbabane and Matsapha, and a dedicated daily air charter service between Johannesburg International Airport and Swaziland.

RAILSwaziland Railway
Swaziland Railway, which has served the country in the movement of goods for nearly 36 years, is responsible for the infrastructure, rolling stock and operation of Swaziland’s 300 kilometre railway system. SR provides a vital transport link for the country’s diverse import and export commodities. The railway also facilitates the passage of tourist trains from South Africa and Mozambique and offers many attractions, including competitive rates.

Swaziland Railway remains committed to customer care and measuring the degree of client satisfaction is an ongoing exercise.

Eighty percent of goods moved worldwide are transported by sea and containerisation is the most widely used means of safely and conveniently storing all categories of cargo while in transit. The inland clearance depot was established at Matsapha in 1993 to serve the many export industries operating from the area and to provide both importers and exporters with an efficient, convenient service which is time and cost effective.

The depot, which operates as a dry port, is ideal for a land-locked country such as Swaziland because it incorporates all the services of a sea port, including container handling, customs clearance to facilitate through bills of lading, and a customs bonded store. These enable many of the procedures carried out at a sea port to be handled at Matsapha.

Three, six and twelve metre containers enable different sizes and configurations of goods to be accommodated. The containers are moved by road on Swaziland Railway trucks and then transported by rail to the ship.

The complex formalities and paperwork involved in moving goods across borders within and beyond the Common Customs Area are handled by companies with expertise in this specialised field.

Goods arriving in the country from outside the Common Customs Area must have import permits and declared values, with clearing documents issued by a recognised agent.

Sales tax of 12% (still expected to rise to 14%) is payable on all imported goods, with the exception of alcohol and tobacco products which are taxed at 25% . Invoices must be supplied at the point of entry where the tax is also collected, unless a sales tax registration number is presented.

Although value added tax applies in South Africa, commodities exported from that country into Swaziland are allocated zero rating provided the exporter is satisfied that the goods are destined for outside that country, and that relevant forms are complete, thus avoiding double taxation.

Rental services for different types of vehicles are available in Swaziland with the major representation at Matsapha airport. Vehicles may be hired as part of a travel package or by contacting the rental outlets direct.

Affordable Car Hire
Wholly owned by indigenous Swazis, Affordable Car Hire was established in 1996 to provide vehicles for rental, including passenger cars, pick-up trucks and micro-buses. A chauffer service is available if required. The company is able to serve a wide diversity of clients, including institutional and corporate, government, tourists and the general public.

Affordable Car Hire’s vehicles may be driven to Mozambique subject to prior arrangement, and payment may be tendered in cash or through major credit cards.

Swaziland’s expatriate population originates from many countries world-wide and by its nature entails frequent turnover of personnel. It follows that high standards of efficiency are necessary for moving their effects in and out of the country from and to global destinations. Several removal companies with the relevant international links operate in Swaziland to serve this market which also includes the diplomatic sector.

Elliott International
Based in Johannesburg, the Matsapha branch of this family-owned firm was established in 1993 in order to provide optimum standards of service to the Swaziland clientele. The company’s international links and highly specialised experience in packing and moving personal effects have resulted in Elliott’s sound reputation.

The policy of providing a highly personalisedservice is an integral part of the company’s reputation and is practised by all the people involved in the Swazilandoperation.

Removals to all destinations are undertaken, including local, long-distance and all parts of the globe.

This sector is regulated by the Road Transportation Board under the authority of the Ministry of Transport and Communications. Buses are the major form of transport for the majority of Swazis and these services are run entirely by private operators. Permits to serve specific routes are granted annually.

There is no subsidy from government or municipalities and operators are entirely responsible for maintaining their vehicles in a fit and safe condition. Buses are checked regularly by a government vehicle examiner and if found deficient, removed from service until repaired.

Because the majority of Swazis rely on buses, efficient and safe services are essential to the economy and existing legislation still does not allow the industry to be as efficient as it should be. Permit holders do not always adequately service their routes and anomalies in the system mean that permission to operate on the same run may be withheld from a potentially efficient party. New legislation addresses this problem and introduces a number of improvements, including stricter safety regulations. However, this has not yet been enforced. Since 1997, mini-buses have been officially acceptable as a means of public transport.

Privately owned taxis play a smaller but important part in the public transport sector. Operators of these vehicles must be properly registered and possess the relevant Road Transportation Board permit.

Higher interest rates and currency depreciation increased the prices of new vehicles with a resultant drop in demand. In 1999/2000, there was a slight drop in the number of vehicles registered, from 2,470 to 2,417 units. New vehicles purchased decreased by 32.8% from the previous year to only 866 units, mostly due to less purchases by government and sales to companies dominated the market. On the other hand, the used car market increased by 31.3%, while the commercial/bus category was up 7.2%. Tractor sales totalled 34 units compared with 43 the previous year, mainly due to a shortage of finance.

The future depends on suppliers’ ability to contain price increases and the possible hike from 12% to 14% in sales tax will make vehicles even more expensive.

New Registration of Vehicles in Swaziland




Passenger Car 690 897 1587 469 574 1043 314 830 1144
Light Commercial 911 799 1710 649 321 970 431 352 783
Heavy Commercial and Buses 255 458 713 171 286 457 121 369 490
TOTALS 1856 2154 4010 1289 1181 2470 866 1551 2417

Source: Central Statistical Office