24 July 2012

Swaziland: No Sacrifice From King Mswati

Photo: James Hall
Money matters: In Swaziland political parties are banned and any form of public dissent.

opinion

Don't expect King Mswati III of Swaziland to follow the example of the Spanish Royal family and take a pay cut to help save the kingdom's economy.

In Spain, King Juan Carlos and Crown Prince Felipe recently volunteered to have the money they get from the Spanish taxpayers reduced by 7 percent as part of a round of public expenditure cuts introduced by the government.

In Swaziland, where King Mswati rules as sub-Saharan Africa's last remaining absolute monarch, the government has told public service workers, including nurses and teachers, they must take a 10 percent wage cut because the economy is in a mess. They have also made cuts to social budgets.

But, instead of taking their share of the pain, King Mswati and his Royal family have increased the amount of money they take from the Swazi people.

In the Swazi national budget introduced in February 2012 King Mswati and his royal family continued to receive E210 million a year from the Swazi taxpayer for their own use. This was the same amount they got in the financial year 2011/12, but was an increase of 23 percent over 2010/11 and a whopping 63 percent compared with what the king took from his subjects in 2009/10.

So, while the people of Swaziland, where seven in ten live in abject poverty earning less than US$2 a day, suffer, King Mswati III continues to live life on the hog.

Earlier this year he travelled to London to visit Queen Elizabeth II at her Diamond Jubilee and Inkhosikati LaMbikiza, his first wife, (he has 13) wore a pair of shoes trimmed with jewels, sequins and feathers that cost US$1,559 - it would take 70 percent of the king's subjects at least three years to earn the price of those shoes.

While more than half of Swaziland's 1.1 million population rely on some form of food aid to keep them from hunger, King Mswati has 13 palaces in Swaziland, one for each of his wives; fleets of BMW and Mercedes cars and at least one Rolls Royce. In April, for his 44th birthday he received a private jet worth US$17 million as a gift. He refused to reveal who bought it for him, leading to speculation that it was paid for out of public funds.

The cost of the King's five-day trip to the UK for the Diamond Jubilee has been estimated to be at least US$794,500.

The Spanish are not the only Royals to make a sacrifice. Belgium's King Albert II said in January that he would use part of his salary to help pay for the upkeep on his properties. In the Netherlands, there have been cutbacks to the royals' private travel expenses, and the queen paid for maintenance on her private yacht.

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