King Mswati III the absolute monarch in Swaziland has ‘donated’ US$150,000 to help victims of drought in his kingdom. It came weeks after it was revealed the government he handpicked will spend US$13 million on a private jet aircraft for him.
King Mswati came under intense criticism after a national drought emergency was declared in Swaziland in February 2016 and the Swazi Government announced it could not pay for necessary relief. It calculated it would need US$16 million in international aid by the end of April 2016.
The European Union in Swaziland reported in February 2016, ‘The drought caused by the El Nino phenomenon has severely affected Swaziland resulting in the loss of more than 40,000 herd of cattle with more than 300,000 people in the country (about 25 percent of the population) facing severe food shortages.’
The People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), the best-known prodemocracy group in Swaziland, said the move to buy a A430-300 Airbus for the King was ‘corrupt’ and ‘insensitive’ at a time when about one in four of Swaziland’s 1.3 million population was in extreme danger of hunger because of the prolonged drought in the southern Africa region.
In a statement, PUDEMO said, ‘That money used to buy the jet can pay for 2,500 students to finish their degrees at the university from 1st year to 4th year. The same amount can pay for 42,500 children to start form one up to form five in public schools. So the king decided to steal from 45,000 children to live a luxury life.’
PUDEMO also estimated the money spent on the jet could alternatively, ‘recapitalise farmers with 20,000 new cattle and feed; or build a new fully furnished hospital; or build 40 fully-equipped clinics; or build 35 new fully-furnished schools; or build 10 tar roads in rural areas each 20km.’
The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, reported his donation as if it were from his own money. It reported, ‘His Majesty has always advocated the love thy neighbour principle as he has always preached for people to help one another in times of need.’
However, the King has never held a salaried position in his life and his entire income comes from the Swazi people, either in the form of their taxes or money he holds from company profits and mineral royalties ‘in trust for the Swazi nation’.
In reality he uses the money to fund a lavish lifestyle. He already owns a McDonnell Douglas DC-9 jet aircraft that cost about US$11 million in 2010, but he considers it too small. The King also has 13 palaces and fleets of BMW and Mercedes cars.
Meanwhile, seven in ten of his 1.3 million subjects live in abject poverty with incomes of less than USS$2 per day.
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