Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Swaziland’s King Mswati III and his family are to cost the Swazi people E130 million for their upkeep in the coming year.

This figure is more than the money Swaziland will spend on capital expenditure for education (E113 million) or capital expenditure on social security and welfare (E73 million).

The money will go to the king and his wives (believed to number 13 in total, but this is not confirmed as the number of wives the king has is officially deemed to be information the Swazi people must not have) and countless members of the Royal Family.

The E130 million for the king listed in the budget as ‘royal emoluments and civil list’ is an increase on the E85.2 million he was given by Swazi taxpayers for the financial year 2007/2008.

The figures are part of the annual budget for Swaziland that was approved by the House of Assembly last week. Despite a week of debate in the House and extensive media coverage in Swaziland, the cost of the upkeep of King Mswati and his extended family has not been openly discussed.

To put that E130 million (13 million US dollars) into some context: in Swaziland 70 percent of the families of one million Swazi people live on less than E10 a day, while the Royal Family get by on a third of a million a day.

In the coming year, the total amount of income tax collected from individuals working in Swaziland is estimated to be E1,080 million, or put another way it means that each person who pays tax in the kingdom is giving more than E8 in every 100 to the king’s family.

This income doesn’t take into account any other income the king and his family may have. Last year (2008), Forbes estimated King Mswati’s wealth at 200 million US dollars (E2 billion at the present exchange rate).

During the budget debate it was also revealed that the upgrading of royal residences will cost E105 million.

I’d like to give you a definitive analysis of the rest of the budget estimates, but when you look at the official documents they make little sense. There seem to be some very basic errors made when simply moving data from one table of figures to another. For example, in an analysis of recurrent expenditure in agriculture, forestry and fisheries in 2009/10 expenditure is given as E265,632,000 but when the same sector appears in the ‘comparative summary’ table that figure has grown to E294,182,000. And similar ‘mistakes’ occur in all the other sectors as well.

To open the wound further the first table appears on page 7 and the second on page 8 so it’s not too difficult to spot something doesn’t add up.

I don’t know what’s going on, but last week I pointed out that Finance Minister Majozi Sithole believed that you could turn E28 million into E100 million in seven years if you got an annual interest of 10 percent.

Perhaps, that gives us a clue ....

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