Police in Swaziland beat hungry people with batons as they tried to get free food during King Mswati’s 50th birthday celebration.
‘There were loud screams from the crowd as batons started flying as the officers bashed some people,” The Times of Swaziland reported.
It described the crowd as ‘frenzied’.
The newspaper reported on Monday (23 April 2018) that free food was being given out at the King Sobhuza II Memorial Stadium in Nhlangano when word spread that there would not be enough food for everyone.
‘Immediately people began pushing and shoving with some falling to the ground in the process,’ The Times reported.
It happened as people gathered to watch a speech from the King transmitted on a big screen. In Swaziland seven in 10 of the 1.1 million people live in abject poverty with incomes less than the equivalent of US$2 per day. At Royal occasions free food and other gifts are distributed.
The newspaper also reported there was a ‘stampede’ as thousands of people struggled to claim gifts of t-shirts and kangas.
Later, King Mswati, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, wore a suit weighing 6 kg and beaded with diamonds at a banquet for 700 people. Centrepiece was a birthday cake with 52 layers.
The World Food Program has reported 350,000 people are in need of emergency food assistance in Swaziland, with 640,000 potentially affected by some degree of food insecurity at the peak of the lean season.
SWAZI KING WEARS SUIT OF DIAMONDS
NO NAME CHANGE YET FOR SWAZILAND
KING UNILATERALLY RENAMES SWAZILAND
NOTHING TO CELEBRATE FOR MOST SWAZIS