E1 million intended for retired and disabled people in Swaziland is being given to King Mswati III to help pay for his 50th birthday party.
The money has been donated by the Swaziland National Provident Fund (SNPF) for the so-called 50/50 Celebrations on 19 April 2018 to mark the King's birthday and the 50th anniversary of Swaziland's Independence from Great Britain.
King Mswati rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch. Already all police officers and soldiers in the kingdom have had money deducted from their salaries to contribute to the celebrations.
The Sunday Observer, a newspaper in Swaziland in effect owned by the King, reported (25 March 2018) that initially SNPF had pledged E250,000 (US$21,000) towards 50/50 but later upgraded the donation.
The SNPF was established in 1974 as a retirement savings scheme, the main purpose of which is to provide benefits for employed persons when they retire from regular employment in old age or in the event of becoming incapacitated.
All employers of labour in Swaziland are required by law to become contributing members of the fund, and must pay a contribution for every eligible staff member. The employee's share (one half of the stipulated amount) is deducted from wages.
Spending on the 50/50 celebrations has already been controversial. The Swazi Government is to pay US$7.5 million for a fleet of luxury BMW cars to transport dignitaries on the day. The cost of the cars alone bust the US$1.7 million budget the government allowed itself for the festivities.