People in impoverished Swaziland are being encouraged to take birthday gifts to the kingdom’s absolute monarch King Mswati III.
The King marked his 50th birthday on 19 April 2018 with a party for 700 guests. He wore a watch worth US$1.6 million and a diamond-studded suit to the event where he cut a cake with 52 layers.
Days before that party he took delivery of his second private jet. This one, an A340-300 Airbus, reportedly cost as much as US$30 million after VIP upgrades.
Meanwhile seven in ten of the 1.1 million population live in abject poverty with incomes less than the equivalent of US$2 per day.
Now, the Swazi Minister of Home Affairs Princess Tsandzile, herself a sister of the King, has announced ordinary people can take gifts to the Lozitha Royal Palace.
The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King, reported on Wednesday (2 May 2018), she said, ‘There are no specifications of people or gifts but everyone who has anything to present to His Majesty for his 50th birthday is expected to be at Lozitha on Friday [4 May 2018].’
Such tributes are expected each year. In 2015, King Mswati hosted a birthday party for himself that cost at least E1.2 million (US$120,000). According to a report in the Sunday Observer at the time, 35 cattle and 1,000 blankets were presented to the King. The King’s subjects, through their chiefs, also contributed 69 cattle, two goats and E5,400 cash.
The King choses a different area of his kingdom to visit for his birthday celebrations. In 2012 the venue was Shiselweni, Swaziland’s poorest region. Locals were forced to give up their cattle for the King. At the time, the Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN), a banned organisation in Swaziland, called for the party to be cancelled.
It said in a statement, ‘Shiselweni is the country’s poorest region, the same area where the country’s poorest citizens live. Areas like Lavumisa are so poverty stricken that its residents have at times been reported to be living on poisonous shrubs. Despite this abject poverty in the region, the King has insensitively decided to throw a lavish birthday party and rub his stolen riches in the people’s poverty stricken faces.’
In a report in May 2017, the World Food Program estimated 350,000 people of Swaziland’s population were in need of food assistance. WFP helped 65,473 of them. It said it was regularly feeding 52,000 orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC) aged under eight years at neighbourhood care points. About 45 percent of all children in thought to be OVCs.
It reported chronic malnutrition affected 26 percent of all children in Swaziland aged under five.
SWAZI KING AND QUEENS OF BLING
KING WEARS WATCH WORTH US$1.6-million
KING WEARS SUIT BEADED WITH DIAMONDS
KING DEMANDS COWS FROM THE POOR
KING GETS 32 BMW CARS FOR HIS BIRTHDAY
KING PARTIES WHILE CHILDREN DIE