Members of the Swaziland Parliament have blocked a move to pay E96 million (about US$6.4 million at the present ever-fluctuating exchange rate) for a jet plane for the kingdom's autocratic monarch King Mswati III.
The money had been allocated to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in the kingdom's annual budget announced in February 2016.
In February 2016 the Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, reported the E96 million was set aside for a jet for the King after members of the parliament, many of them appointed by the King, urged the Swazi Government to consider buying the King a plane to replace the DC-9 jet (also known as an MD-87) which he already has. It has been the subject of legal disputes in both Canada and the British Virgin Islands.
Once news of the intended spending was made public outside of Swaziland the King came in for heavy criticism. Swaziland is in the grip of a drought crisis and in February the Swazi Government declared a national emergency and said the kingdom would need E248 million (US$16 million) before the end of April 2016.
The King has a reputation for lavish spending. He already owns a private jet aircraft and fleets of Mercedes and BMW cars. He also has 13 palaces in his kingdom where seven in ten of his 1.3 million subjects live in abject poverty with incomes of less than US$2 per day.
It is reported that about 300,000 (one in four of the King's subjects) need drought relief with rural people in danger of severe malnutrition.
The Star Africa news site reported that Swazi legislators felt the allocation of money for the jet, 'is a waste of resources as there are other options that can cost far less.'