Sunday, January 17, 2010


King Mswati III of Swaziland has finally risen from his slumbers and recognised that his kingdom is facing economic meltdown.

But instead of leading his subjects by cutting his own spending, selling off his palaces, abandoning his vanity project, the E1.5 billion Sikhuphe International Airport, and returning to the people the money he ‘holds in trust’ for them, he is telling ordinary people that they must make the sacrifices.

And he holds to some strange notion that everything will be all right, even though all indications are that they will not be.

Swaziland faces economic meltdown because after years of warning the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) has cut the amount of money it gives Swaziland. This year Swaziland will get E1.9 billion – down from E6 billion last year.

King Mswati, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, told a gathering of 8,000 of his ‘warriors’ that they needed to exercise caution and tighten belts in the wake of the economic crisis.

The Swaziland Government has already asked for budget cuts in all its departments and revealed that it doesn’t have cash to pay much-needed farm subsidies.

This will almost certainly mean there will be fewer crops grown this year and unless international donors gift aid to Swaziland people will go hungry and some might starve.

King Mswati told his warriors not to panic ‘because government would look into the real causes of the decreased SACU revenue and come up with a programme to better the lives of the people’.

This is a fantasy, of course. As I have been reporting for more than a year the Swazi Government shoulders much of the blame for the economic crisis through its own mismanagement and ignorance.

The king said it was vital that the kingdom produced sufficient food to feed its people and neighbours in need.

The Times Sunday, an independent newspaper in Swaziland, reported the king saying, ‘he had strong faith that the country would realise a bumper harvest this year’.

Perhaps, heeding warnings from elsewhere that the economic meltdown might lead to civil disobedience among Swazi people, King Mswati told his warriors they should continue to show respect. He added that ‘disrespectful Swazis’ should be taught the importance of respect.

We should expect those ‘disrespectful’ progressives who long ago saw through King Mswati and his henchmen to feel the heat as the economic crisis grows worse.

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