Monday, March 12, 2018


A drive to raise cash to pay for the 50/50 celebrations to mark the anniversary Swaziland’s independence from Great Britain and the autocratic King Mswati III’s birthday is underway in the kingdom.

Included in this are advertisements appearing in local media asking for contributions from ‘the business community, institutions and individuals’ of up to E1 million and above.

In Swaziland seven in ten of the estimated population have income less than the equivalent of US$2 per day, which is about E24.

It has already been announced that a budget of the equivalent of US$1.7 million has been earmarked by the government for the celebration due in April 2018. 

The 50/50 celebrations are a re-run of the 40/40 celebrations from 10 years ago. Then as now a similar call was put out for funding. Organisers had expected sponsors to contribute E0.8 million but in fact only E104,000 was given. 

King Mswati who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch called on ordinary Swazi people to send him their own donations.

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King reported at the time that the King wanted to revive the kwetfula custom in which the nation submits ‘gifts and donations to Royalty as this is the indigenous way of life for the Swazi people’.

The newspaper said, ‘His Majesty said such donations were not bribery to Royalty. He was speaking at Lozitha Palace when receiving gifts and pledges from the business community and individuals for use during the 40/40 double celebration.’

In what is a deeply corrupt kingdom, the King was anxious to dispel concerns that these ‘gifts’ might actually be bribes. The Observer quoted the King, ‘“Even if one was accused of having committed a certain offence, we would treat the offense and donation on different merits.”

‘His Majesty said people should not misinterpret those who donate to Royalty as bribing or campaigning for certain political appointments.’

The Observer reported, ‘The king said from time immemorial, Swazis had adopted a way of life by which a farmer who had harvested from his crops would separate a portion to donate to the King.’

It added, ‘His Majesty said more donations were still welcome,’ adding in siSwazti ‘donations to Royalty would never be stopped’. 

The budget for 40/40 overran by at least E32.6 million (about US$5 million at the then exchange rate). E17 million was budgeted but it ended up costing ‘at least’ E50.2 million. The exact figure is uncertain. This was revealed in the ‘Comprehensive Project Completion Report’ (CPCR), written by Luke Mswane, chair of the double celebrations committee that oversaw the 40/40 celebration.

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