Wednesday, May 15, 2019

More money goes to Swaziland’s absolute monarch, despite kingdom’s financial meltdown

The conglomerate of businesses that partly finances the lavish lifestyle of Swaziland’s absolute monarch King Mswati III increased its revenue by 26 percent in the year ending 2017, according to official figures, recently released.

The profits of Tibiyo TakaNgwane are said to be held in trust for the Swazi Nation but the way they are spent is clouded in secrecy. The South African Sunday Times newspaper in August 2014 reported ‘several sources’ who said it was ‘an open secret’ that although money generated by Tibiyo was meant to be used for the benefit of the nation, Tibiyo in fact channelled money directly to the Royal Family. 

The annual accounts for the financial year ending April 2017 were recently released. They show that dividends from investments were E162 million, an increase from the E118.5 million recorded in 2016.  

Net income increased from E145 million to E250 million, a 72 per cent increase. Total assets grew from E1.8 billion to E2 billion, a growth of nine per cent.

According to the annual report Tibiyo, spent E144 million on ‘Swazi national development’. The accounts do not give full details of how this money was spent except to say E56 million went on ‘sundry expenses’ and a further E36 million was spent on ‘national ceremonies’. This compared to E2 million spent on health care and E38 million on scholarships and bursaries.

Tibiyo owns outright or has substantial interests in a number of businesses including sugar refining giants Ubombo Sugar and Royal Swaziland Sugar Corporation (RSSC), dairy company Parmalat Swaziland, spirits manufacturer Swaziland Beverages and hotel chain Swazi Spa Holdings.  It also owns the Swazi Observer, one of only two daily newspapers in the kingdom.

Separately from his money from Tibiyo, King Mswati also holds 25 percent of all mining royalties in Swaziland ‘in trust’ for the Swazi Nation.

This unaccounted spending took place at a time when the Swaziland government was deeply in debt and unable to pay its suppliers. Public services across the kingdom renamed eSwatini by the King in 2018 have ground to a halt with reports of people dying for lack of medicines and children going hungry because the government, handpicked by King Mswati, was unable to pay suppliers of meals for children.

In 2017 King Mswati was named the third wealthiest King in Africa by the international website Business Insider. It reported he had a net worth of US$200 million (about E2.8 billion in local Swazi currency). The King rules a population of about 1.3 million people and seven in ten of them live in abject poverty with incomes of less than E30 per day.

In 2009, Forbes named King Mswati among the top 15 wealthiest royals in the whole world, with a net worth of US$200 million. 

In February 2011 the Mail & Guardian 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.

King Mswati and his family live a lavish lifestyle, at the expense of the people of Swaziland.

The Swazi Government paid US$30 million to buy the King a private jet plane in 2018. King Mswati now has two private planes, 13 palaces and fleets of top-of-the-range BMW and Mercedes cars. He wore a watch worth US$1.6 million and a suit beaded with diamonds weighing 6 kg, at his 50th birthday party in April 2018. He received E15 million (US$1.2 million) in cheques, a gold dining room suite and a gold lounge suite among his birthday gifts. 

His family regularly travel the world on shopping trips spending millions of dollars each time.

Meanwhile, the World Food Program said it could not raise the US$1.1 million it needed to feed starving children in the kingdom.

See also

Lavish spending leads to food aid cut

Swazi Govt ‘runs out of cash’

Report blasts royal family’s ‘greed’

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