Barnabas Dlamini, Swaziland’s unelected Prime Minister, is under fire from members of parliament over a plan to build him a retirement house costing E5.5 million from public funds.
They said the house was too expensive and the designs alone cost E1.5 million.
The money was included in the national budget announced earlier this month.
The Times of Swaziland reported on Wednesday (14 March 2018) that the Prime Minister ‘went as far as including the King’s name’ in his justification for having the house.
King Mswati III rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. Political parties are banned from taking part in elections. The King appoints the Prime Minister and senior government ministers. In Swaziland the King’s word is law and if he gives a directive it is to be followed without question.
The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King, reported the King, ‘has blessed the site where the house would be built, the PM told MPs’.
It added, ‘Dlamini also told the MPs that the King had chosen a site where the house would be built.’
A Royal Commission has already been announced to look into the salaries and benefits of parliamentarians. The E5.5milion (US$467,000) budget for the house was left unchanged.
Dlamini is aged 75 and in poor health. He is widely expected to retire at the next national election due sometime in 2018.
The Prime Minister’s retirement package is set out in Finance Circular No 2 of 2013. He will receive 80 percent of his final salary until he dies. In 2016 it stood at E802,854. In Swaziland seven in ten of the estimated 1.1 population have incomes less than the equivalent of US$2 per day (about E8,760 per year).
The Swazi taxpayer will contribute the full amount payable to a medical aid scheme of which the Prime Minister is a member. They will provide a house and a vehicle of the same status as the one he has while in office. Dlamini will also ‘be afforded security in line with the risk profile as determined by the Commissioner of Police’. He will be provided with a personal assistant.
When the cost of the PM’s house was included in the 2017 national budget, MPs protested that the amount was too much and should be frozen to a time when the kingdom could afford it.
Finance Minister Martin Dlamini did not make reference to the PM’s house in his budget speech, but he did state that the budget only included ‘the most critical expenditure items’.
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