17 February 2018

Swaziland: Students to Protest 50/50 Celebration

Photo: Cia Pak/UN Photo
King Mswati III of Swaziland addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventy-second session.

Students in Swaziland are set to protest against the 'extravagant spending' of the 50/50 celebrations to mark the King's birthday and the anniversary of Independence from Britain.

The protest is due to take place on 12 April 2018, the anniversary of the proclamation that turned Swaziland from a democracy into a kingdom ruled by an absolute monarch.

In a statement (14 February 2018), the Swaziland National Union of Students (SNUS) said, 'The National Executive Committee noted two upcoming national events in the terms of double celebration (50/50 celebration) and National Elections as projects that has been historically synonymous with corruption and extravagant spending and depriving the people fundamental social services in the process. In accordance with the 2018 theme, the NEC resolved to stage a protest on the 12th of April against extravagant spending and corruption.'

Details of the protest have still to be finalised.

The 50/50 celebrations are to mark the 50th birthday this year of King Mwsati III, sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch, and the 50th anniversary of Independence from Britain. It has already been announced that celebrations will take place on 19 April at Mavuso Trade and Exhibition Centre.

A budget of the equivalent of US$1.7 million has been given by the government. The Taiwan Government has donated US$1.3 million.

When similar celebrations took place in 2008 the cost of the so-called 40/40 celebrations overran by E32.6 million (about US$5 million at the then exchange rate). E17 million was budgeted but it ended up costing 'at least' E50.2 million. The exact figure is uncertain.

The celebrations took place at a time when Swaziland was under the pressure of savage financial cuts, imposed by the International Monetary Fund, after years of mismanagement of the economy by successive Swazi governments - all handpicked by King Mswati.

The intended SNUS protest is set for 12 April. This is an important date in Swaziland as it was on this day in 1973 that King Mswati's father King Sobuza II issued a Royal Decree that banned all political parties and put all legislative, executive and judicial power in the hands of the King. Despite a Constitution that came into effect in 2006, the Decree has not been withdrawn.

Protests are held each year on the anniversary of 12 April.

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