25 April 2013

Swaziland: 'King's Birthday Privately Sponsored'

King Mswati III's US$3.6 million birthday party was privately sponsored and did not cost the Swazi people anything, the government has claimed.

Estimates of the costs of the birthday party held on 19 April 2013 vary between E10 million and E33 million (US$3.6 million), but Percy Simelane, the official government spokesperson said this money did not come out of the kingdom's budget for celebrations and national events.

He told Voice of America radio, 'The king's birthday was privately sponsored this year, as [was] the case was last year.'

He added, 'The budget for this year's celebrations and national events was [$1,027,551]. There is just no way that [$3 million] could come from [$1,027,551].'

He did not say who sponsored the event.

Last year King Mswati, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch, was embroiled in controversy when it emerged that he had received a McDonnell Douglas DC-9 twin-engine private jet, costing an estimated US$46 million. Government said it was given to him by private sponsors, but refused to name them, leading to speculation that it was paid for out of public funds.

Simelane made his latest revelation in response to a pay claim from public sector works. They want improved living conditions, and say the extravagant celebrations held for the king's 45th birthday were an indication that the economy had improved.

Days before the king's birthday, the People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), a banned political party in Swaziland, reported 32 BMW cars had been delivered to the King.

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