King Mswati III’s vanity soccer tournament was a flop with fans as the national football stadium at Somhlolo was under a third full.
Organisers had claimed 10,000 Swazi fans would attend and another 20,000 would come from outside the kingdom.
In fact, when the tournament that included two of South Africa’s top soccer clubs took place on Saturday (18 July 2015), fewer than 10,000 spectators were in the ground.
The attendance figure was reported by the Sunday Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati himself. It reported, ‘An estimated 30,000 supporters was expected to be part of this much anticipated tournament but the games attracted a crowd of less than 10,000.’
Media, which is strictly controlled in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati, who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, had been reporting for the past three weeks that the soccer-loving Swazi people would flock to the tournament.
The tournament’s Public Relations Officer, Dumsani ‘DU’ Sibandze had previously been reported by the Swazi Observer, a newspaper also owned by the King, saying 10,000 tickets would be made available to local soccer fans while the rest would be sold to South Africa and neighbouring countries.
The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom, had reported ahead of the tournament that, ‘major hotels within Ezulwini has been sold out as the King’s Super Cup draws a number of visitors to the country’. This proved to be false reporting.
The newspaper had also reported designated borders between Swaziland and South Africa would have their hours of operation extended to accommodate the ‘influx of soccer fans’.
The competition, which ran for the first time this year, included the Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates from Soweto, South Africa. Two local soccer teams also took part in the tournament.
The competition was said by organisers to be in honour of King Mswati.
It was previously reported that E5.8 million (US$580,000) had been taken from various government ministries to fund the tournament.
Tickets for the tournament cost a minimum E250 (US$25). In Swaziland seven in ten of King Mswati’s subjects live on less than US$2 a day.
Prior to the tournament a campaign ran to try to persuade the two South African clubs not to take part in the tournament because it would be seen as supporting the King who has been criticised globally for the poor human rights in his kingdom. In Swaziland, political parties are banned from taking part in elections and pro-democracy campaigners are arrested under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.
The People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), in a statement said, ‘Almost 70 percent of Swazi citizens live under the poverty line of less than a dollar a day, while Mswati III’s preoccupation is buying private jets, luxury cars and touring the world with his throng of wives at the expense of the Swazi people.’
CALL TO BOYCOTT KING’S SOCCER CUP
SWAZI KING’S CUP TICKET PRICES SKY HIGH
CAMPAIGN TO STOP KING’S CUP SPREADS
PUBLIC FUNDS TO SUPPORT KING’S CUP
ELDERLY UNPAID AS CASH GOES TO SOCCER
ORGANISERS TALK-UP SWAZI KING’S CUP