28 January 2014

Swaziland: Homes, School to Go to Extend Palace


Five homes and a school will have to be destroyed to make way for the expansion of one of King Mswati III's 13 palaces.

King Mswati, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch, is extending his Lozitha Palace, near the Swazi capital Mbabane.

Electricity lines are also being moved because they will now fall within the boundary of the King's palace.

One of the homes to be moved houses a 92-year-old man. All the properties affected are on Swazi Nation Land. King Mswati holds all Swazi Nation Land 'in trust' for the Swazi people.

The Times of Swaziland, the only daily newspaper independent of the King's direct control, reported that the King's Office is presently erecting a 'concrete boundary' to the palace. It described the new building as a 'Royal fort'.

It reported Sihle Dlamini, Estate Manager of the King's Office, saying the expansion of the palace had been sanctioned by King Mswati.

He said the affected families would be relocated, but he could not say where to.

King Mswati, who rules over a population of 1.3 million subjects, has 13 palaces, one for each of his wives. Meanwhile, seven in ten of his subjects live in abject poverty earning less than US$2 per day.

The King, who was once estimated by Forbes Magazine to have a private fortune of US$200 million, has a private jet airplane and fleets of Mercedes and BMW cars. He and his wives regularly take luxury trips abroad.

In March 2013 it was reported that Swaziland taxpayers were being forced to spend E2.2 million (US$240,000) on a guardhouse at Lozitha Palace to house more than eight soldiers around the clock and it will connect to an underground bunker.

Principal Secretary in the Ministry of National Defence and Security, Andrias Mathabela, refused to disclose the purpose of the bunker.

In a commentary on last year's national budget, the Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN), a group campaigning for democracy in the kingdom, said, 'King Mswati remains by far the biggest financial drain to the Swazi state. Despite siphoning public funds into private investments, and running Tibiyo Taka Ngwane [a conglomerate of companies he holds in trust for the Swazi nation] as his private investment company, he continues to use public funds to finance his lavish lifestyle and that of his ever increasing family.'

SSN said a total of E256 million (US$37 million) was used each year as 'royal emoluments' and was, 'shared between his wives, children, his half-brother and their mothers, and other relatives of the royal family'.

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