THE spendthrift monarch of the impoverished southern African kingdom of eSwatini is once again in the spotlight, after buying 19 Rolls-Royce cars and 120 luxury BMWs for himself and his family.
King Mswati III embarked on the spending spree to please his 15 wives and 23 children, while his kingdom is being rocked by civil unrest over worsening economic conditions and poverty.
Civil servants have been staging rolling strikes in demand for better pay, while tertiary institutions remain closed by the government after children took to the streets to protest poor education conditions.
The money splashed out by eSwatini’s government to acquire a new royal fleet is estimated to be around 15 million euros, according to London’s Times newspaper.
The kingdom’s Prime Minister, Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini tried to justify the lavish spending on royal cars, claiming, according to the Swaziland Times, that it was perfectly in line with the government’s policy of selling vehicles which were five years old.
But the attempt to shield the king fell flat, after a senior adviser to King Mswati denounced the scheme as ‘the fleet fiasco’.
The country ‘wouldn’t be in a state of apathy, had the purchase been better managed,’ said Prince Nhlonipho, a member of the national council standing committee, in remarks published by the Eswatini Observer.
‘It’s a blatant display of arrogance and total disregard of the poor people of Swaziland’s feelings,’ complains Wandile Dludlu, Secretary-General of the opposition People’s United Democratic Movement (Pudemo).
‘As a party, we are least concerned about how many wives and children he has. The big issue is that the national purse has to take care of someone’s children when ordinarily in modern politics there is supposed to be a separation between his private resources and the public purse,’ Dludlu argued.
As the Pudemo official pointed out, ‘the Swazi political system is meant to serve the monarchy and its cronies, not the people.’
As the unprecedented action against Africa’s last absolute monarchy mounts, Swaziland News reports that a new political alliance was formed on Monday, ‘to oust Mswati III and transform the kingdom into a multi-party democracy.’
According to the publication, the Political Parties Assembly comprises the People’s United Democratic Movement, the Ngwane National Liberation Congress, the Swaziland Democratic Party, the Communist Party of Swaziland and the civil society.
Swaziland News also carries a press release signed by the Secretary-General of the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland, Mduduzi Gina, inviting all concerned Swazis to a march on Wednesday, where they will deliver a petition to Prime Minister Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini.