There are only 16 working public ambulances to serve the whole of Swaziland (eSwatini). Another 12 are off the road in need of repair but there is no money to fix them. The news came at the same time that the kingdom's absolute monarch King Mswati III spent an estimated US$6 million buying 15 luxury Rolls-Royce cars for himself and his wives.
Health and other public services across Swaziland are grinding to a halt because the government, whose members are elected but handpicked by the King, has mismanaged the economy for years.
Dr Simon Zwane, Principal Secretary in the Swazi Ministry of Health, told parliament that there were shortages of medicines and blood in public hospitals across Swaziland.
He said patients with cancer, diabetes and blood pressure were among many who were not receiving medication. The Times of eSwatini quoted Zwane saying, 'We are managing what we have and anticipating shortages. And honestly, we don't have everything in stock.'
Zwane also said there were only 16 working public ambulances for a population estimated to be 1.2 million. The Times reported he said ambulances were constantly in need of being fixed as they were old. There were 28 ambulances in total but 12 had been grounded for quite some time.
The news about the shortage of ambulances came at the same time it was revealed that King Mswati had spent an estimated US$6 million on 15 Rolls-Royce cars.
A few days later Swaziland took delivery of a fleet of 84 BMW cars and 42 BMW motorbikes, which were reportedly for 'escort duties'. The cost of these has not been revealed.
The King has a long history of lavish spending. He has two private airplanes, at least 13 palaces and fleets of top-of-the-range cars. At his 50th birthday in 2018 he wore a watch worth US$1.6 million and a suit beaded with diamonds that weighed 6 kg. Days earlier he had taken delivery of his second private jet. This one, an Airbus A340, cost US$13.2 to purchase but with VIP upgrades was estimated to have cost US$30 million.
Meanwhile, seven in ten of the population live on incomes less than the equivalent of US$2 per day