The newspaper which is part of the Swazi Observer group, labelled as a ‘pure propaganda machine for the royal family’ by the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) in a report on press freedom in Swaziland, objected to reports in a number of media outlets during the King’s October 2015 visit to the Indo-Africa summit in Delhi.
The Observer objected to reports that the King, who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, took 100 servants, 30 of his family and 15 wives on the trip. He reportedly booked about 200 rooms at a five-star hotel for his entourage.
The reports originally appeared in Zee Media and News World India. Reports said a single hotel room cost up to US$230 a night.
The Observer also criticised Swazi Media Commentary, the internationally-renowned website that has been reporting on human rights issues in Swaziland since 2007, for drawing global attention to the news reports.
The Observer called the reports ‘blatant lies’ but offered its readers no evidence to support its case. Nor did it inform its readers of the cost of the King’s trip.
There has been an international spotlight on King Mswati’s extravagant spending for many years, but media in Swaziland remain silent on the matter. In 2011, Alec Lushaba, editor of the Weekend Observer, wrote that the newspaper group would never publish anything about the monarchy without the King’s approval.
In 2007, Forbes, the internationally-respected media group, revealed that the King had a personal fortune estimated to be US$200 million.
The King has at least 13 palaces, a private jet, a fleet of top-of-the-range Mercedes Benz and BMW cars and at least one Rolls Royce car.
Swaziland faces a severe financial crisis and the government, which is not elected by the people but handpicked by King Mswati, has announced that elderly grants (old age pensions) are to be abolished for some people. This is to save the government money.
Meanwhile, as recently as Friday (30 October 2015) the Mail and Guardian (M&G) newspaper in South Africa reported that despite the financial meltdown in the kingdom, King Mswati’s government has approved a plan to lease a private A-340 jet for the King. The M&G reported, ‘Industry sources estimated the annual cost of leasing an A-340 – over and above running costs and fixed costs such as insurance – at about $9-million (E122-million).’
M&G also reported, ‘King Mswati’s wealth is a closely guarded secret, but it has been variously estimated at between US$50-million and US$200-million.
‘In addition to his enormous government salary, Mswati controls the royal investment house, Tibiyo Taka Ngwane, which draws mining royalties and has stakes in the Royal Swaziland Sugar Corporation and hotel chain Swazi Spa Holdings. He has direct stakes in other firms, including 10 percent of MTN Swaziland.’
It added, ‘Swaziland’s Gini coefficient is 51.5, meaning that of 187 countries ranked by the United Nations Development Programme in terms of wealth inequality, it stands at 170.’
In 2012, Forbes named King Mswati as one of the top five worst rulers in Africa.
It reported the King ruled over a kingdom which has one of the world’s highest HIV prevalence rates: over 35 percent of adults. Its average life expectancy was the lowest in the world at 33 years; nearly 70 percent of the country’s people live on less than US$1 a day and 40 percent are unemployed.
It added, ‘But for all the suffering of the Swazi people, King Mswati has barely shown concern or interest.
‘He lives lavishly, using his kingdom’s treasury to fund his expensive tastes in German automobiles, first-class leisure trips around the world and women. But his gross mismanagement of his country’s finances is now having dire economic consequences. Swaziland is going through a severe fiscal crisis.
‘The kingdom’s economy is collapsing and pensions have been stopped. In June last year , the King begged for a financial bailout from South Africa.’
In February 2011 the M&G newspaper in South Africa reported King Mswati also had US$10-billion that was put in trust in King Mswati’s name for the people of Swaziland by his father, King Sobhuza II.
In 2015, a report from the United States government report concluded there was no oversight in the kingdom on how the King, his 15 wives and vast Royal Family spent public money.
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