Sunday, March 3, 2013


The Swaziland king and last absolute monarch in sub-Saharan Africa, Mswati III, has had a private underground bunker built for himself and his family, a prodemocracy group says.

It is on a specially-built private road connecting two of the king’s palaces at Lozitha and Ngabezweni, the Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN) says.

It says the bunker is not connected to either palace, but does not give a reason why it has been built.

SSN reveals the existence of the bunker and private road as part of its analysis of the misuse of public funding in Swaziland.

In a commentary on the national budget announced last week (22 February 2013), SSN says, ‘King Mswati remains by far the biggest financial drain to the Swazi state. Despite siphoning public funds into private investments, and running Tibiyo Taka Ngwane [a conglomerate of companies he holds in trust for the Swazi nation] as his private investment company, he continues to use public funds to finance his lavish lifestyle and that of his ever increasing family.’

SSN says a total of E256 million (US$37 million) is used each year as ‘royal emoluments’ and is ‘shared between his wives, children, his half-brother and their mothers, and other relatives of the royal family’.

It is well known that King Mswati lives a lavish lifestyle while seven in ten of his 1.1 million subjects are in abject poverty, earning less than US$2 a day. The king has 13 palaces, a private jet airplane and fleets of Mercedes and BMW cars. He and his wives regularly take luxury trips abroad.

SSN reports, ‘In each of his numerous trips overseas the state forks out $50,000 for him alone, $40,000 for his accompanying wife, and $15,000 for each of his children and their friends and relatives. In total, this amount, which does not include accommodation, transportation and living expenses, can amount to $500,000 (E4 million), which is allowances alone.’

SSN goes on to say these expenses are, ‘a drop in the ocean when compared to the numerous multi-million investments that are siphoned from the country’s treasury and invested in private companies, at times using the king’s name or a trusted henchman.

‘The nation is therefore burdened with a greedy and very selfish man who believes that he is entitled to this lifestyle by virtue of being born into a certain family that has historically been at the center of the Swazi nation. All pretences to be governing the country on behalf of the nation are therefore nothing but empty rhetoric designed to stave of the inevitable democratization of the country.’

SSN goes on to say that Swaziland is considered to be a ‘middle-income’ nation but kingdom’s wealth is not evenly distributed among the Swazi people.

It says, ‘Swaziland is still heavily reliant on foreign grants simply because the redistribution of wealth is extremely skewed. This in effect means that the bulk of the country’s wealth is reserved for the royal family, while the rest of the population has to live on whatever remains of that and the foreign handouts.’

It goes on, ‘The best way forward is therefore the curtailing of royal emoluments in favour of increased social spending. Health and education are not the privileges that the government believes they are. They are crucial investments which may be the deciding factors between whether the country eventually attains the status of a self-sustainable state or becomes a failed one.’

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