25 July 2012

Swaziland: Queens Off On Shopping Spree

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

Democracy advocates in Swaziland are reporting that several of King Mswati III's 13 wives are going on a multi-million rand shopping trip and vacation to the gambling capital of the world, Las Vegas in the United States.

The Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN) says three of the wives will be accompanied by an entourage of 55 people. They are expected to stay in 10 villas at the cost of R20,000 (US$2,400) per villa per night.

SSN reports that a private jet will be used to transport the Royals. They are expected to arrive in Las Vegas on 4 August 2012.

Previously, SSN reported that the queens would also be visiting Spain and the United Arab Emirates.

SSN said in a statement, 'The total cost of this trip is unknown. However, similar trips in the past have cost the [Swazi] taxpayer at least R200 million as they will be travelling by a privately hired jet.'

The trip is not unusual. Every year a party of the king's wives go on a luxury shopping spree.

In 2010, a group of the king's wives went on what was described at the time as 'another multi-million dollar international shopping spree' to Brussels in Belgium and London, UK.

About 80 other people went on the trip to tend to the needs of the queens.

In August 2009, five of King Mswati's wives went on a shopping trip through Europe and the Middle East that cost an estimated US$6 million.

At the time media in Swaziland were warned not to report on the trip because it would harm the king's reputation. Media houses were told they would face sanctions, including possible closure, if word got out. But newspapers and websites across the world followed the story.

The Times of London, for example, reported how the queens went on a shopping spree while the subjects of King Mswati, sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarchy, went hungry.

The Australian newspaper said the king ignored the Swazi poor and the newspaper reminded readers that Swaziland relied on international aid from the European Union and the United States.

The previous year in August 2008 when a group of the king's wives went on a similar shopping spree ordinary Swazi women were so outraged that they took to the streets of Swaziland in protest.

King Mswati, rules as sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch. Seven in ten people in Swaziland live in abject poverty earning less than two US dollars a day.

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