In the week that it was revealed that three of his 13 wives are to take a multimillion-rand shopping trip and vacation to Las Vegas, King Mswati III of Swaziland has publicly said leaders have a duty to liberate people from poverty.
It was reported across the world (but not in Swaziland where media are censored) that the Swazi Queens would be part of a group of 66 people travelling to the United States where they will stay in 10 luxury villas at a cost estimated to be about R1,2 million. They will reportedly fly by private jet at a possible cost of R36 million (US$4.6 million).
Although seven in ten of his subjects live in abject poverty, earning less than US$2 a day, King Mswati, who is sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch, spends lavishly. He has 13 palaces, one for each of his wives, and fleets of BMS and Mercedes Benz cars. In April this year he received a private jet as a birthday gift. The Swazi Government that he handpicks said the plane was donated by an overseas' well-wisher, but refused to name who it was, leading to speculation that it was bought from public funds.
This week in Windheok at a state banquet hosted by Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba, King Mswati said there was different struggle today to liberate people. 'It is the struggle to liberate our people from poverty, disease and economic stagnation. I truly believe that if we combine our efforts to sweep this struggle away from our doorsteps, we will succeed in emancipating our people socially and economically.'
In Swaziland political parties are banned and any form of public dissent is squashed by the King's state forces. However, in his speech the king praised the freedom fighters that had emancipated Namibia. 'We congratulate and salute those brave men and women who fought for the liberation of this great nation. We all know that lives were lost but they were fighting for a just cause,' the Swazi Observer, a newspaper that the king in effect owns, reported him saying.