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Monday, 21 May 2018

POLICE PROBE ELECTION ‘CORRUPTION’

Police in Swaziland are investigating possible election corruption as voter registration enters its second week.

A former government minister has been accused of bribing people with promises of food parcels for their votes.

The Swazi Observer reported on Monday (21 May 2018) that the man who it did not name and his brother had been offering free meals and transporting people to registration points in the Hhohho region. People had made verbal agreements to vote for the ex-minister when the election proper begins.

The newspaper reported that police, acting on a tip off, detained and recorded statements from 17 people. Police continue to conduct investigations to establish the extent of the alleged corruption, the newspaper said.

Meanwhile, registration across Swaziland has been hampered by problems with voter-registration computer software equipment which is slow in uploading information. This has happened despite promises from the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) that they were fully prepared for the election.  Software and equipment problems also affected the last election in 2013.

The EBC reported on Sunday that more than 85,000 people had registered to vote made up of 51 percent men and 49 percent women. The EBC has not announced how many people in Swaziland are eligible to vote. In 2013 it put the figure at 600,000 of which 414,704 registered and 251,278 people voted. That meant that only 41.8 percent of those entitled to vote did so in 2013.

See also

POOR START TO VOTER REGISTRATION
REGISTRATION OPENS FOR SWAZI ELECTION
https://swazimedia.blogspot.co.uk/2018/05/registration-opens-for-swazi-election.html

Saturday, 19 May 2018

ABSOLUTE KING DEMONSTRATES HIS POWER

King Mswati III, the absolute monarch in Swaziland, has signed what amounts to a decree to formalise his unilateral decision to change the kingdom’s name to Eswatini.

It demonstrates how much the kingdom is under his control and signals a reminder that elections due to be held later this year have no validity.

A Legal Notice No 80 of 2018 was released on Thursday (17 May 2018) confirming the name-change came into force on 19 April 2017. It was then at an event to jointly mark his 50th birthday and the 50th anniversary of Swaziland’s independence from Great Britain, King Mswati announced his proclamation

The Legal Notice states that, ‘reference in any written law or international agreement or legal document to Swaziland shall be read and construed as reference to Eswatini’.

The King’s announcement in April was received with mixed emotions. The heavily-censored news media in Swaziland welcomed the move joyously. Meanwhile, critics argued that the King should not make the change without first consulting the people and parliament. 

The King’s decree is a reminder that Swaziland is not a democracy. On Sunday (13 May 2018) voter registration began ahead of national elections later this year. Political parties are banned from taking part and the King picks the Prime Minister and Government. At past elections people only got to select 55 of 65 members of the House of Assembly. The King chose the other 10. At this election there will be an additional four seats for people to vote for. It has not been announced how many members the King will choose but the Swaziland Constitution allows him to pick up to ten.

As in previous years, none of the 30 members of the Swazi Senate will be elected by the people; the King will choose 20 and the other 10 will be chosen by members of the House of Assembly.

The European Union Election Experts Mission (EEM), one of a number of international groups that monitored the conduct of Swaziland’s previous election in 2013, made much of how the kingdom’s absolute monarchy undermined democracy.

In its report it stated, ‘The King has absolute power and is considered to be above the law, including the Constitution, enjoying the power to assent laws and immunity from criminal proceedings. A bill shall not become law unless the King has assented to it, meaning that the parliament is unable to pass any law which the King is in disagreement with. 


‘The King will refer back the provisions he is not in agreement with, which makes the parliament and its elected chamber, the House of Assembly, ineffective, unable to achieve the objective a parliament is created for: to be the legislative branch of the state and maintain the government under scrutiny.’

The EEM went on to say the ‘main principles for a democratic state are not in place’ in Swaziland.

It stated, ‘Elections are a mechanism for the popular control of government and ensure the government accountability to the people. The King appoints the Cabinet. A vote of no confidence in the prime minister and government from more than two-thirds of the members of the House, in October [2012], was easily reversed although the Constitution provides that in such cases the prime minister shall be removed from office. 

‘In this context, an analysis of the legal framework for elections seems quite a redundant exercise, as the main principles for a democratic state are not in place. Although the electoral legal framework contains the technical aspects required for the proper administration of elections, it does not conform to international principles for the conduct of democratic elections, as it does not respect one of the fundamental rights for participation –the freedom of association.’

The EEM was not alone in recognising Swaziland as undemocratic. In its report on conduct of the 2013 election, the African Union (AU) mission called for fundamental changes to ensure people had freedom of speech and of assembly. The AU said the Swaziland Constitution guaranteed ‘fundamental rights and freedoms including the rights to freedom of association’, but in practice ‘rights with regard to political assembly and association are not fully enjoyed’. The AU said this was because political parties were not allowed to contest elections.

The AU urged Swaziland to review the constitution, especially in the areas of ‘freedoms of conscience, expression, peaceful assembly, association and movement as well as international principles for free and fair elections and participation in electoral process’.

In its report on the 2013 elections, Commonwealth observers recommended that measures be put in place to ensure separation of powers between the government, parliament and the courts so that Swaziland was in line with its international commitments.

They also called on the Swaziland Constitution to be ‘revisited’. 

The report stated, ‘This should ideally be carried out through a fully inclusive, consultative process with all Swazi political organisations and civil society (needed, with the help of constitutional experts), to harmonise those provisions which are in conflict. The aim is to ensure that Swaziland’s commitment to political pluralism is unequivocal.’

It also recommended that a law be passed to allow for political parties to take part in elections, ‘so as to give full effect to the letter and spirit of Section 25 of the Constitution, and in accordance with Swaziland’s commitment to its regional and international commitments’.

In 2015, following a visit to Swaziland, a Commonwealth mission renewed its call for the constitution to be reviewed so the kingdom could move toward democracy.

The constitutional review has not taken place.

Richard Rooney

Legal Notice No 80 of 2018


See also

NO NAME-CHANGE YET IN SWAZILAND
GOVERNMENT NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE REVERSED
https://swazimedia.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/govt-no-confidence-vote-reversed.html

Friday, 18 May 2018

POOR START TO VOTER REGISTRATION

With the election registration in Swaziland only days old there is a report of corruption and another of nepotism. Voting equipment is not available across the kingdom.

The Times of Swaziland reported on Tuesday (15 May 2018) an aspiring member of the parliament who it did not name had been accused of bribing people E50 if they registered at his chiefdom. He reportedly ferried people in a hired car from Kwaluseni to register at Ngwane Park. Police are investigating.

The first day of registration on Sunday was marred by confusion. People at many registration centres across the kingdom were turned away as no registration kits were available.

The Times of Swaziland, reported on Monday several registration centres visited by reporters were found with only the registration clerks, assistants, and police officers. It reported the registration kit includes a laptop, scanner, fixed camera, biometric scanner and a printer.

The Times reported Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) Communications Officer Mbonisi Bhembe said they had technological challenges, including software issues and slow Internet connections.

The problems came despite previous EBC assurances it was ready for the election. It said it had trained about 600 people to administer the election, mostly during the registration period.

EBC chairman Chief Gija Dlamini told media in April 2018 the trained people were unemployed students from tertiary institutions and pupils who had just finished high school. He said the people had been recommended by chiefs.

On Thursday the Swazi Observer reported residents at Mbangweni complained of nepotism when four people selected to assist in the election were from the same family. It reported Inkhosatana Gelane, the acting KoNtshingila chief, saying they were ‘loyal and respectful residents’. The Shiselweni Regional Administrator Themba Masuku is investigating.

The registration process at the last election in 2013 had similar computer problems and there was reported corruption during registration in 2013. The EBC said some people were offered bribes of E100 (US$10 at the then exchange rate) or E200 to register twice.

Political parties are banned from taking part in the election and King Mswati III, who rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, picks the Prime Minister and Government. At past elections people only got to select 55 of 65 members of the House of Assembly. The King chose the other 10. At this election there will be an additional four seats for people to vote for. It has not been announced how many members the King will choose but the Swaziland Constitution allows him to pick up to ten.

As in previous years, no members of the Swazi Senate will be elected by the people; the King will choose 20 and the other 10 will be chosen by members of the House of Assembly.

King Mswati has yet to set the date for the election.

See also

REGISTRATION OPENS FOR SWAZI ELECTION
https://swazimedia.blogspot.co.uk/2018/05/registration-opens-for-swazi-election.html

Thursday, 17 May 2018

PATIENTS AT RISK AS GOVT BILLS UNPAID

Hospitals across Swaziland have been left without security guards exposing them to criminal activity because the government has not paid its bills.

Ministry of Health Principal Secretary Simon Zwane confirmed that some companies that were owed money had withdrawn their staff.

Among those affected were the Hlatikulu Government Hospital in Shiselweni and the Nhlangano Health Centre, the Swazi Observer reported on Wednesday (16 May 2018).

It reported, ‘At Hlatikulu Government Hospital, a female patient who had intravenous tubes hanging almost got raped after a stranger sneaked into the female ward.’ There was also a report of attempted theft in the kitchen.

A police spokesperson told the newspaper officers were patrolling health facilities as part of their routine duties but had not taken over the jobs of the security guards.

Zwane told the newspaper the Government was trying to pay at least some of its bills.

Government bills go unpaid across the kingdom. Children have been told by teachers to prepare themselves for starvation as the government failed to deliver free food to schools over the past year. At the heart of the crisis is the Swazi Government’s inability to pay its suppliers. In the March 2018 Budget, Finance Minister Martin Dlamini said the government owed E3.1 billion and was trying to find a way to pay its bills. 

As a result of unpaid bills, suppliers have stopped delivering food, and medicines. Electricity supplies to government offices, law courts, police stations, libraries, media houses, and border posts were cut. 

Meanwhile, King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, lives a lavish lifestyle. On 19 April 2018 he wore a watch worth US$1.6 million and a suit studded with diamonds that weighed 6 kg to a party for 700 guests. Days before he took delivery of his second private jet. This one, an A340-300 Airbus had a purchase price of US$13.2 million, but with VIP upgrades it reportedly cost about US$30 million, paid or out of state funds.

The King also has 13 palaces and fleets of top-of-the-range BMW and Mercedes cars. His wives regularly travel the world on shopping sprees costing millions of dollars. Meanwhile, seven in ten of the 1.1 million population live in abject poverty on incomes less than the equivalent of US$2 per day.  

See also

LAVISH SPENDING LEADS TO FOOD AID CUT
SWAZI GOVERNMENT ‘IS BROKE’
SWAZI GOVT ‘RUNS OUT OF CASH’
https://swazimedia.blogspot.co.uk/2018/05/swazi-govt-runs-out-of-cash.html

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

COURT FINES WOMAN, 78, FOR ‘DISRESPECT’

A 78-year-old woman in Swaziland was sentenced to nine months in prison with an option of a fine for ‘disrespecting’ local leaders.

She had refused to attend a meeting called by the traditional authorities at KaLanga.

The Swazi Observer newspaper reported on Wednesday (16 May 2018) that Tobhini Dlamini appeared before the Swazi National Court where she faced a charge of contravening the Swazi Law and Custom. 

‘She was alleged to have wrongfully and intentionally disrespected the traditional authority of KaLanga Umphakatsi by refusing to attend a meeting after she was summoned,’ the newspaper reported.

She had been accused of selling Swazi Nation Land to people wanting to build homesteads. In Swaziland, Swazi Nation Land is under the control of King Mswati III, who rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

Court President Chief Ndlondlo Tsabedze sentenced her to nine months jail with the option of a E900 (US$70) fine.

Chiefs in Swaziland are appointed by King Mswati and wield tremendous power over their subjects. They can, for example, determine whether people are allowed to live in the area, or whether children can attend universities and colleges. In some cases they decide who lives and who dies as they are in charge of distributing international food aid to starving communities. About a third of the population of Swaziland receive food aid each year. 
Chiefs can and do take revenge on their subjects who disobey them. There is a catalogue of cases in Swaziland. For example, Chief Dambuza Lukhele of Ngobelweni in the Shiselweni region banned his subjects from ploughing their fields because some of them defied his order to build a hut for one of his wives.
Nhlonipho Nkamane Mkhatswa, chief of Lwandle in Manzini, the main commercial city in Swaziland, reportedly stripped a woman of her clothing in the middle of a street in full view of the public because she was wearing trousers.
In November 2013, the newly-appointed Chief Ndlovula of Motshane threatened to evict nearly 1,000 of his subjects from grazing land if they did not pay him a E5,000 (about US$500 at the time) fine, the equivalent of more than six months income for many in Swaziland.
In March 2017 the Swazi Observer reported the EBC told residents during a voter education exercise at Engwenyameni Umphakatsi, ‘it was not acceptable have elected politicians to behave as if they were above community leaders’.
It added, ‘Chiefs remain superior to any other person in communities as they are the administrative arm of His Majesty King Mswati III.’

See also

BULLYING CHIEFS RULE IN SWAZILAND
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2013/06/bullying-chiefs-rule-in-swaziland.html

EU MONEY PAYS FOR LAVISH SWAZI KING

European Union taxpayers’ money is being used to finance the lavish lifestyle of Swaziland’s Royal Family, an investigation has revealed.

This happens while seven in ten of the 1.1 million population live in abject poverty.

Money given to develop Swaziland’s sugar industry ends up in the pocket of King Mswati III who rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. In April 2018 at a party to mark both his 50th birthday and the anniversary of Swaziland’s Independence from Great Britain, King Mswati wore a watch worth US$1.6 million and a suit weighing 6 kg studded with diamonds. Days earlier he had taken delivery of his second private jet. This one, an Airbus A340, cost US$13.2 to purchase but with VIP upgrades was estimated to have cost US$30 million.

The report from Danish NGO Afrika Kontakt (Africa Contact) called The European Union in Swaziland: In support of an Authoritarian King? says EU money ‘benefits the Royal Family greatly’ and undermines democratic forces in Swaziland.

The EU spent 120 million Euros (US$144 million; E1.76 billion) to improve the competitiveness of Swaziland’s sugar industry in the ten years up to 2017. Sugar accounts for almost 60 percent of the agricultural output and 16 percent of employment in the kingdom.

The sugar industry in Swaziland is dominated by Tibiyo TakaNgwane, a royal investment company that the King holds ‘in trust for the Swazi nation’. Tibiyo owns 50 percent of the Royal Swaziland Sugar Corporation (RSSC) and 40 percent of Ubombo Sugar Ltd (a subsidiary of the South African-based Illovo company), the industry’s major players. Tibiyo also has stakes in sugar estates and haulage companies and has a 30 percent share in FINCORP, which provides loans to small-scale sugar farmers with interest rates above 20 percent.

Afrika Kontakt said the Swaziland sugar industry mirrored Swazi society by being largely owned by the Royal Family through various companies and investment funds, and by the royal chiefs playing an important role.

It added the purpose of EU funding was to increase the competitiveness of the sugar industry. ‘However, a large percentage of the funds have benefitted the two major sugar millers RSSC and Ubombo Sugar Ltd, and their major shareholder the royal investment company Tibiyo TakaNgwane.’

It said that EU funding had helped subsistence farmers, but had also enriched chiefs through the payment of royalties and Royalty-affiliated haulage companies.

Afrika Kontakt said Tibiyo’s ownership in RSSC secured it a dividend payment of E98 million (US$8 million) in 2015-16. Ownership of Illovo paid out E15 million as dividend in 2012-13. Illovo is no longer listed so it is impossible to find information about more recent payments.

Afrika Kontakt reported Tibiyo is controlled by King Mswati III and Freedom House has reported it is an open secret in Swaziland that the Royal Family uses the fund to pay for personal expenses. The Managing Director of Tibiyo A T Dlamini is a former Prime Minister and the board consists of several members of the Royal Family.

Tibiyo’s annual accounts are sketchy. For example in 2015, E49 million – almost half the total expenses – were budgeted under ‘sundry expenses’ without further clarification. Afrika Kontakt reported this was ‘a sign that funds which are supposed to aid the public are being used by fund managers and/ or the Royal Family in an underhand manner’.

Afrika Kontakt said, ‘The sugar industry in Swaziland is structured so that external assistance [from the EU] to the industry ends up benefitting the last absolute monarch in Africa.’

It added this support for the Royal Family undermined the democratic forces in the kingdom. Swaziland is not a democracy. Political parties are banned from contesting elections and groups advocating for democracy are banned as ‘terrorists’ under the Suppression of Terrorism Act. Media are severely censored and freedom of assembly is curtailed. Elections are held every five years in Swaziland but people only get to select 55 of 65 members of the House of Assembly. The King chooses the other 10. No members of the Swazi Senate are elected by the people; the King chooses 20 and the other 10 are elected by members of the House of Assembly.

After the last election in 2013, King Mswati appointed nine princes and princesses to the House of Assembly and the Senate.

The Afrika Kontakt report stated, ‘By continuing to support these sectors, without raising demands from the Swazi Government to prioritize its citizens’ well-being over the lavish lifestyle of its monarch, it is essentially EU taxpayers’ money that finances the lavish spending of the monarchy.’

After the most recent national election in 2013, the African Union (AU) mission called for fundamental changes in the kingdom to ensure people had freedom of speech and of assembly. The AU said the Swaziland Constitution guaranteed ‘fundamental rights and freedoms including the rights to freedom of association’, but in practice ‘rights with regard to political assembly and association are not fully enjoyed’. The AU said this was because political parties were not allowed to contest elections.

The AU urged Swaziland to review the constitution, especially in the areas of ‘freedoms of conscience, expression, peaceful assembly, association and movement as well as international principles for free and fair elections and participation in electoral process’.

In its report on the 2013 elections, the Commonwealth observers recommended that measures be put in place to ensure separation of powers between the government, parliament and the courts so that Swaziland was in line with its international commitments.

They also called on the Swaziland Constitution to be ‘revisited’.

The report stated, ‘This should ideally be carried out through a fully inclusive, consultative process with all Swazi political organisations and civil society (needed, with the help of constitutional experts), to harmonise those provisions which are in conflict. The aim is to ensure that Swaziland’s commitment to political pluralism is unequivocal.’

It also recommended that a law be passed to allow for political parties to take part in elections, ‘so as to give full effect to the letter and spirit of Section 25 of the Constitution, and in accordance with Swaziland’s commitment to its regional and international commitments’.

In 2015, following a visit to Swaziland, a Commonwealth mission renewed its call for the constitution to be reviewed so the kingdom could move toward democracy.

There is concern in Europe that not enough is being done to press for democracy in Swaziland. In May 2015, the European Parliament voted for the release of all political prisoners in Swaziland and called for the kingdom to be monitored for its human rights record.

A statement issued by the European Parliament said, ‘Parliament considers the imprisonment of political activists and the banning of trade unions to be in clear contravention of commitments made by Swaziland under the Cotonou Agreement to respect democracy, the rule of law and human rights, and also under the sustainable development chapter of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Economic Partnership Agreement, for which Parliament’s support will depend on respect for the commitments made.’

The resolution was passed by 579 votes to six, with 58 abstentions. 

See also

SPOTLIGHT ON SWAZI INTERNATIONAL AID
EU UNDERMINES FIGHT FOR DEMOCRACY
HUMAN SUFFERING AND SWAZI SUGAR
KING EXPLOITS SUGAR WORKERS
FREE POLITICAL PRISONERS: EURO MPs
EURO MPs: SCRAP TRADE DEALS
http://swazimedia.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/euro-mps-scrap-swazi-trade-deals.htm

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

REGISTRATION OPENS FOR SWAZI ELECTION

Swaziland’s Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) says it is fully prepared for the forthcoming national election. Registration is open and runs to 17 June 2018. 

EBC Chair Chief Gija Dlamini has been talking up the election and says he expects people to ‘vote in their numbers’. A date for the election has yet to be announced.

He should hope that there is not a re-run of the chaotic registration process at the last election in 2013. Across the kingdom people turned up to register at 400 centres only to be turned away. Excuses given to them ranged from computer equipment not working to polling clerks not properly trained to perform their duties.  

The campaign to sign up voters was sluggish and the EBC struggled to generate interest so registration was extended by a week.

Eventually, the EBC announced 411,084 people had registered to vote out of the 600,000 people in the kingdom it said were eligible to vote. At the previous election in 2008, the EBC signed up 88 percent of the eligible 400,000 population. If it signed up a similar proportion in 2013, there should have been 528,000 people on the electoral roll.

A campaign to boycott the election may have affected registration numbers. Political parties are banned from taking part in elections and the parliament that is selected has no real power and acts as a rubber stamp for King Mswati, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.
In the past people only got to select 55 of 65 members of the House of Assembly. The King chose the other 10. This time there will be an additional four seats for people to vote for. It has not been announced how many members the King will choose but the Swaziland Constitution allows him to pick up to ten.

As in previous years, no members of the Swazi Senate will be elected by the people; the King will choose 20 and the other 10 will be chosen by members of the House of Assembly.

There was reported corruption during registration in 2013. The EBC said some people were offered bribes of E100 (US$10 at the then exchange rate) or E200 to register twice.

The EBC said it did not have enough money to run the election successfully as the Swazi Government had cut its allocation from E200 million to E100 million. It is claimed that it could not afford enough staff to monitor the registration of voters across the whole kingdom. 

The ability of members of the EBC to do their job was questioned. King Mswati appointed the EBC in 2008 and at the time many civil society organisations and pro-democracy campaigners criticised the choices because members were inexperienced. The Swazi Constitution demands that the EBC chair should be a qualified judge, but King Mswati appointed one of his half-brothers, Chief Gija Dlamini, who was variously described at the time as an electrician or electrical engineer, to the post, which he still holds today.

The Electoral Institute of Southern Africa (EISA) shortly after the 2008 election reported, ‘Almost all the stakeholders regarded the members of the EBC as royal appointees.

‘Stakeholders did not regard the EBC as independent and believed that the EBC operated under the instruction of the King. Stakeholders also expressed the view that the EBC was not representative of society as a whole, but was drawn exclusively from government officials or members of the aristocracy.

‘Most believed that the Commissioners do not meet the qualifications laid down in the constitution in Article 90(6): “The chairperson, deputy chairperson and the other members of the Commission shall possess the qualifications of a Judge of the superior courts or be persons of high moral character, proven integrity, relevant experience and demonstrable competence in the conduct of public affairs”’.

See also

VOTERS MISLED ON SWAZILAND ELECTION
BILL TO GET WOMEN INTO PARLIAMENT
EARLY ELECTION CAMPAIGNING ILLEGAL
https://swazimedia.blogspot.co.uk/2018/04/early-election-campaigning-illegal.html

Monday, 14 May 2018

SPOTLIGHT ON SWAZI INTERNATIONAL AID

More information than ever before about the lavish spending of King Mswati III, the absolute monarch of impoverished Swaziland, has been made public (outside the kingdom) in recent weeks, raising questions about where the money comes from.

Now, Swazi Media Commentary turns a spotlight on the amount of international development aid the kingdom receives and how this helps divert funds away from much needed work to help the poor and disadvantaged and towards the Swazi Royal Family.

In April 2018 at a party to mark both his 50th birthday and the anniversary of Swaziland’s Independence from Great Britain, King Mswati wore a watch worth US$1.6 million and a suit weighing 6 kg studded with diamonds. Days earlier he had taken delivery of his second private jet. This one, an Airbus A340, cost US$13.2 to purchase but with VIP upgrades was estimated to have cost US$30 million.

Meanwhile, seven in ten of the population estimated at 1.1 million people live in abject poverty on incomes less than the equivalent of US$2 per day.

In 2017, the global charity Oxfam named Swaziland as the most unequal country in the world in a report called Starting With People, a human economy approach to inclusive growth in Africa detailing the differences in countries between the top most earners and those at the bottom. The Oxfam report stated the government, which is handpicked by King Mswati, ‘failed to put measures in place to tackle inequality, with poor scores for social spending and progressive taxation, and a poor record on labour rights’.

In a report in May 2017, the World Food Program estimated 350,000 people of Swaziland’s population were in need of food assistance. WFP helped 65,473 of them. It said it was regularly feeding 52,000 orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC) aged under eight years at neighbourhood care points. About 45 percent of all children in Swaziland are thought to be OVCs. It reported chronic malnutrition affected 26 percent of all children in Swaziland aged under five.

While his subjects go hungry King Mswati and his family live lavish lifestyles. He has 13 palaces and fleets of expensive cars. He and his 13 wives and children wear watches worth tens of thousands of dollars each. His wives regularly take international shopping trips costing millions of dollars. Meanwhile, Swaziland takes money from overseas to fund its development projects, many of them directed at the poorest people in the kingdom.

Between 2011 and 2015 Swaziland took US$507 million (E6.24 billion) in external assistance from other countries. Of this, US$140 million came from the United States (28 percent of the total) and US$123 million from the European Union (24 percent of the total). Other main donors were Taiwan (US$74 million) and the United Nations (US$59 million).

Combined, the total external assistance accounted for 17.6 percent of Swaziland’s domestic revenue. The EU’s assistance covers a range of areas, including education, health, water and sanitation among others. The US only assists in areas of health. The health sector receives the largest amount of aid, followed by agriculture and infrastructure.

A report written by Klaus Stig Kristensen and published by Afrika Kontakt (Africa Contact) in 2017 stated, ‘The EU and US finance these sectors, freeing up funds for the government of Swaziland to spend on an unnecessary defence/security sector that consumes an increasing amount of the national budget.

‘They thereby alleviate funds for the government of Swaziland to be spent on vanity capital projects [such as the King Mswati III International Airport] and unnecessary defence that consumes an increasing amount of the national budget.

‘If sustainable socio-economic development is to take place in Swaziland, it is essential that the government of Swaziland takes the lion’s share of the responsibility and prioritizes its budget accordingly.’

The report stated that in Swaziland almost 6 percent of the national budget is spent on the Royal Family and 12.4 percent on the security sector, while only 3.3 percent is spent on agriculture, ‘the engine that is supposed to pull the rural population out of poverty’. It added, ‘This is a strange budget prioritization considering that the majority of Swazis live below the poverty line. 

In the March 2018, the budget for the Royal Family spending (the civil list) was increased by E1 million to E394 million. At the same time value added tax (VAT) was increased by 1 percent. Local media did not comment on the King’s increase but did report the budget as an attack on the poor.

King Mswati’s personal spending also diverts money away from much-needed development.

The sources of the King’s income are kept secret from the Swazi people. In 2009, Forbes magazine estimated that the King himself had a personal net fortune worth US$200 million. Forbes also said King Mswati was 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. The trust has been estimated to be worth US$10 billion.  

The King also holds 25 percent of all mining royalties in Swaziland ‘in trust’ for the Swazi nation.

In August 2014 the Sunday Times newspaper in South Africa reported King Mswati personally received millions of dollars from international companies such as phone giant MTN; sugar conglomerates Illovo and Remgro; Sun International hotels and beverages firm SAB Millerto.

It reported that MTN, which had a monopoly of the cell phone business in Swaziland at the time, paid dividends directly to the King. He holds 10 percent of the shares in MTN in Swaziland and is referred to by the company as an ‘esteemed shareholder’. It said MTN had paid E114 million (US$11.4 million at the then exchange rate) to the King over the previous five years.

The newspaper also reported that the King was receiving income from Tibiyo Taka Ngwane, a conglomerate he controls ‘in trust for the Swazi nation’, which paid dividends in 2013 of E218.1 million. The newspaper reported ‘several sources’ who said it was ‘an open secret’ that although money generated by Tibiyo was meant to be used for the benefit of the nation, Tibiyo in fact channelled money directly to the Royal Family.

In 2016, Tibiyo paid dividends of E188.5 million and had assets valued at E1.8 billion. Tibiyo TakaNgwane investments include Dalcrue Agricultural Holdings, Inyoni Yami Swaziland Insurance, Royal Swaziland Sugar Corporation, Ubombo Sugar Limited, Bhunu Mall, Nedbank Swaziland, Simunye Plaza, The Swazi Observer, Tibiyo Properties, Maloma Colliery, Parmalat Swaziland, Swaziland Beverages and Swazi Spa Holdings. 

Earlier in May 2018, Lucky Ndlovu, the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office Director of Children Services, revealed that Neighbourhood Care Points (NCP) that feed the hungry across Swaziland were short of food because donations were drying up.

The Sunday Observer reported Ndlovu saying, ‘There is a lack of support from those who used to supply the food. Most of the support was from international donors who are now focussing on other countries which are not classified as middle income countries.’

He added, donors believed Swaziland had enough money but it was not being directed towards the poor.

‘Government must come up with programmes that are pro-poor because the international community is now not willing to support us,’ he said.

See also

KING TAKES US$10m FROM IRON MINE
SWAZI KING AND QUEENS OF BLING
KING WEARS WATCH WORTH US$1.6-million
KING WEARS SUIT BEADED WITH DIAMONDS
SWAZI ROYALS SPEND, SPEND, SPEND
https://swazimedia.blogspot.co.uk/2018/05/swazi-royals-spend-spend-spend.html