Tuesday, January 21, 2020

EU gives Swaziland humanitarian aid to feed hungry while absolute monarch buys his family 15 Rolls-Royce cars

Only two months after King Mswati III, the absolute monarch of Swaziland (eSwatini), spent E53 million on a fleet of Rolls-Royce cars for himself and members of his family the European Union has announced it will give Euro 1 Million (E16 million) in aid for the hungry because the kingdom cannot feed its own people.

About 232,000 people (25 percent of the rural population) are expected to experience severe acute food insecurity, according to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC).

A statement from the European Commission said the money was to help people affected by drought to get food. European Union Ambassador to Swaziland Esmerelda Hernandez Aragones said areas in the Lubombo, Hhohho and Shiselweni regions would get the money.

Swaziland takes humanitarian aid from a number of different countries although it is not officially a poor country. It is designated a ‘lower middle income’ nation by the World Bank.

The situation in Swaziland is that the King and his family drain resources for themselves. Their lavish spending has been reported and criticised by international agencies for many years.

The King takes 25 percent of all mining royalties and controls the profits of the conglomerate Tibiyo TakaNgwane. Officially he keeps these monies ‘in trust’ for the Swazi nation, but in reality much of it goes to fund his own lifestyle. 

He has two private airplanes, at least 13 palaces and fleets of top-of-the-range cars. At his 50th birthday in 2018 he wore a watch worth US$1.6 million and a suit beaded with diamonds that weighed 6 kg. Days earlier he had taken delivery of his second private jet. This one, an Airbus A340, cost US$13.2 to purchase but with VIP upgrades was estimated to have cost US$30 million.

King Mswati once again made international news in November 2019 when he bought 15 Rolls-Royce cars for himself and his family. Days later the government that he personally appointed took delivery of 84 BMW cars and 42 BMW motorbikes, which were reportedly for ‘escort duties’.

After the purchases, Lisa Peterson, United State Ambassador to Swaziland, in a public speech, said, ‘As a development partner, I have serious concerns about  the leadership example currently coming out of the palace.’

She added, ‘While the government continued using its existing vehicle fleet, the palace sees fit to acquire more than a dozen Rolls-Royce vehicles with a minimum  price tag of US$3.71 million (E53 million). To accompany this royal fleet, there is now an even larger fleet of official escort vehicles, purchased  with public funds.’

She said, ‘It  is exceedingly difficult for development partners to continue  advocating for assistance to eSwatini when such profligate spending or  suspicious giving is taking place.’

An official transcript of the speech issued by the US Embassy in Swaziland, reported her saying, ‘Should the people of eSwatini really be comfortable with such disregard for the perilous fiscal state of the country, particularly with so many of His Majesty’s subjects living below the international poverty line?’  

Ambassador Peterson had previously criticised the absolute monarchy in Swaziland. In an article published in November 2018 by both of Swaziland’s two national daily newspapers she called for the decree that puts King Mswati in power as an absolute monarch to be repealed. She also called for political parties to be allowed to contest elections. 

In 2016, after reports that three of the King’s wives had taken an entourage of 100 people on a shopping trip to Toronto, Canada, Peterson warned Swaziland that the kingdom might not receive further food aid from her country because of the King’s ‘lavish spending’ on holidays.

News24 in South Africa reported at the time Peterson said the US had limited funds for drought relief. She said, ‘When we hear of the lavish spending by the Swazi royal family – especially while a third of their citizens need food aid – it becomes difficult to encourage our government to make more emergency aid available. You can’t expect international donors to give more money to the citizens of Swaziland than their own leaders give them.’

See also

Oxfam names Swaziland most unequal country in Africa on personal income

No let up on poverty in Swaziland as absolute King makes public display of his vast wealth
Lavish spending leads to food aid cut

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