Saturday, November 27, 2010


Swaziland’s politicians are behaving as if the kingdom is on the brink of war and want to make sure their own bunkers are full of personal wealth before it starts.

That’s the verdict of one of the most active apologists for the Swazi elite, Musa Ndlangamandla, who is editor-in-chief of the Swazi Observer, the newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

Ndlangamandla, writing in his own newspaper, criticises the ‘orgy of looting, gobbling and self-enrichment by politicians in recent times’.

He writes, ‘When a country prepares for war – I am told – people hurriedly harvest the fields for storage in underground bunkers away from reach of enemy fire, money is withdrawn hastily to be stashed in ‘safe’ places, land is grabbed (the Mbabane style) by politicians for their own good and there is a general atmosphere of self-enrichment at the expense of taxpayers and the poor.’

He goes on to say that some people tell him that ‘some of our leaders are behaving as if they have another country to which they will go when Swaziland is in total ruin’.

I’m sure that many people would agree with Ndlangamandla about the politicians, but he misses one vital person in his analysis of why Swaziland is close to ruin: King Mswati himself.

In his article Ndlangamandla talks about the politicians ‘amassing prime land in exclusive suburbs in the capital at half the market price.

‘The dust has hardly settled on yet another act of looting where the politicians awarded themselves hefty perks that will see some of them take home over E1 million in golden handshakes when their controversy-laden term expires.’

He says Swaziland ‘is crying out for astute and exemplary leadership from government’.

Ndlangamandla says, ‘Moreover, we need to convince the poor – by action and deed – that we are all in the trenches with them by avoiding grandiose lifestyles in the face of abject poverty in most parts of the country. Our politicians should also lead by example and accept substantial slashes not only of their allowances, but also their overall perks.’

This is a tale of corruption and greed, but why should we be surprised that government ministers and MPs behave in this way when the King of Swaziland is the greediest of them all.

Why doesn’t Ndlangamandla ask how King Mswati managed to amass a huge personal fortune, estimated by Forbes to be 200 million dollars?

Can he not tell us how many personal bank accounts the king has outside of Swaziland?

King Mswati is the beneficiary of two funds created by his father Sobhuza II in trust for the Swazi nation. During his reign, he has absolute discretion over use of the income.

Why does the king live such a lavish ‘grandiose’ lifestyle with at least 13 palaces when 70 percent of his one million subjects lives in abject poverty earning less than one dollar (E10) a day?

And it is not just the King: his ‘Royal Family’ is estimated to cost the Swazi taxpayer E300,000 each and every day.

King Mswati is the one who is acting as if his kingdom is on the brink of war. His police, army and ‘security forces’ are being primed for a fight against ‘terrorists’ (that is, anyone who speaks out against the king and his regime) and once civil unrest starts, as it surely will, he will suppress it with brutal violence.

If Ndlangamandla wants to warn the people of Swaziland about the impending doom he should be honest and tell the truth about the king.

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