7 May 2018

Swaziland: Govt Coy On Cost of 50/50 Celebration

The Swaziland Government is being coy about the cost of the double celebrations in April to mark King Mswati III's 50th birthday and the kingdom's 50 years of Independence.

The so-called 50/50 Celebration took place on 19 April 2018. At a party for 700 guests, King Mswati, who is sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch, wore a watch worth US$1.6 million and a suit studded with diamonds. Days earlier he took delivery of his second private jet which with VIP upgrades is reported to have cost US$30 million.

Reports circulating on social media suggest the cost of 50/50 could have been as much as E1 billion (US$80 million).

The Sunday Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King, reported (6 May 2018) that the Ministry of Home Affairs would not comment on the total cost of 50/50.

The newspaper reported Ministry of Home Affairs Principal Secretary Steven Masilela saying 'people suggesting the event was a drain on the public purse are misleading the nation at large'.

He would not give the true cost of the celebration but said 'a large chunk' of the money used came from donations from the business community and other institutions. He said Taiwan had given E15 million.

The newspaper reported, 'Critics have claimed that the country's priorities were not in order, directing public funds to the national event much against the need to address poverty and inequality.'

In Swaziland, seven in ten of the 1.1 million population live in abject poverty with incomes less than the equivalent of US$2 per day.

Funding of the event has caused concerns in Swaziland. It was reported that the equivalent of US$1.7 million (E22 million) of public funds would be used on the event. E1 million of money intended to support poor and disabled people was donated by the Swaziland National Provident Fund. Army and police personnel had funds deducted from their salaries.


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