11 April 2016

Swaziland: King 'Steals From Children' to Buy Jet

Photo: Darron Raw
His Majesty, King Mswati III.

The best-known of the prodemocracy groups in Swaziland has accused King Mswati III of stealing from children so he could have his own personal jet aircraft.

The People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) said the move to buy a A430-300 Airbus for E200,000 (US$13.2 million) was 'corrupt' and 'insensitive' at a time when about one in four of Swaziland's 1.3 million population was in extreme danger of hunger because of the prolonged drought in the southern Africa region.

PUDEMO, which is banned in Swaziland where King Mswati rules as sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch, said that the US$13.2 million could have been better spent.

In a statement it said, 'Our view is that it is corrupt, insensitive and arrogance to buy a jet when there is the crisis of drought. There are families who can't take their children to school. There are university students who cannot afford education. There are farmers who lost everything during the drought. There is 43 percent unemployment.

'That money used to buy the jet can pay for 2,500 students to finish their degrees at the university from 1st year to 4th year. The same amount can pay for 42,500 children to start form one up to form five in public schools. So the king decided to steal from 45,000 children to live a luxury life.'

PUDEMO also estimated the money spent on the jet could alternatively, 'recapitalise farmers with 20,000 new cattle and feed; or build a new fully furnished hospital; or build 40 fully-equipped clinics; or build 35 new fully-furnished schools; or build 10 tar roads in rural areas each 20km.'

The announcement that the money for the King's jet would be paid from public funds came as Swaziland asked for international aid to help provide US$16 million in drought relief before the end of April 2016.

King Mswati lives a lavish lifestyle. He already owns a McDonnell Douglas DC-9 jet aircraft that cost about US$11 million in 2010, but he considers it too small. The King also has 13 palaces and fleets of BMW and Mercedes cars.

Meanwhile, seven in ten of his subjects live in abject poverty with incomes of less than USS$2 per day.

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