Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Just as I was beginning to think we had run out of things to include in our Fantasy Watch game, Swaziland's King Mswati III comes up with a humdinger.

He has announced that ‘his government’ will spend E1.5 billion (about 150 million US dollars) over the next three years on houses for the nation.

This announcement got him a standing ovation at the Swaziland parliament.

King Mswati, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, was opening the second session of the ninth parliament. In his ‘state of the kingdom’ address he said Swaziland needed more houses.

Not that the king himself needs any more. He is reckoned to have at least 13 palaces (one for each of his wives) when 70 percent of his one million subjects live in abject poverty earning less than one US dollar a day.

This tells us a lot about the level of political debate in Swaziland. The king can get up and say anything he wants and nobody dares question him. He didn’t say where the E1.5 billion was going to come from because, I assume, he doesn’t know.

Recently the government forced all its departments to cut budgets this year by 14 percent because the kingdom is going broke. Swaziland will lose E4.1 billion from Southern Africa Customs Union (SACU) receipts this year. SACU receipts accounted for 66 percent of Swaziland’s budget last year.

There is no money to pay for anything in Swaziland. As soon as the money runs out, schools and hospitals will grind to a halt. Civil servants in all departments will not get paid. The kingdom’s only university will not be able to pay its electricity bills.

The only people who won’t suffer will be the members of Swaziland’s gigantic royal family.

Sorry, but these houses will not get built. If King Mswati really cares about his homeless and destitute subjects let him open up his palaces and let them live there.

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