Invite to royal wedding should be withdrawn for Swaziland’s king

Action for Southern Africa's Mark Beacon reports on the state of oppression and intimidation in Swaziland under the rule of one of our monarchy's wedding guests

King Mswati

Mark Beacon is campaigns manager for Action for Southern Africa, the successor organisation to the Anti Apartheid Movement

Yesterday evening more than 60 protesters gathered outside London’s Dorchester Hotel, anticipating the arrival of one of the most controversial guests at the royal wedding – Africa’s only absolute monarch, king Mswati III of Swaziland.

Swaziland has endured the restrictions of a state of emergency since 1973. It has the highest rate of HIV in the world, one of the lowest life expectancies and almost two thirds of the population live in absolute poverty, whilst the king and his friends live in luxury. Political parties are banned, trade unions are massively restricted and the country scores lower than Zimbabwe for its political rights.

As the protesters assembled yesterday evening, news emerged that the king and his entourage had moved to another equally luxurious hotel, in a bid to avoid the critical voices. However, in dealing with protesters in Swaziland, the government has gained a reputation for using more aggressive tactics, including force and repressive legislation to crush dissent.

On April 12-13 hundreds of people in the southern African state were arrested for attempting to protest for democracy, rights and against massive cuts to services. Ahead of the demonstrations the kingdom’s security forces rounded up and detained trade union and pro-democracy leaders. Trade union offices were surrounded by police to prevent anyone from leaving and those who managed to protest were met with batons and tear gas, arrested and then dropped off in forests, left to find their own way home.

Whilst King Mswati and his entourage of 50 stay in one of London’s most luxurious hotels, the people of Swaziland are being plunged deeper into poverty. Financial mismanagement, the global recession and recent reforms to the Southern African Customs Union have left a massive black hole in the Swazi economy, which until recently has been ignored. Unfortunately the government has responded with massive cuts to public services and over 7,000 redundancies, in a country where 40 per cent are already unemployed.

In the last few days power companies have turned off the lights in government departments for failing to pay their bills, while the government continues to invest huge sums in the already massive security sector, vanity projects including a new airport and the king’s personal budget, which has increased by over 60 per cent in the last two years.

It is astounding that in a climate of increasing repression and human rights violations that king Mswati should be invited to the royal wedding. ACTSA is calling for the invitation to be reconsidered and preferably revoked. At the very least the British government should speak out about the worsening situation in Swaziland and express concern to the highest levels of its government. ACTSA is asking its supporters to email Foreign secretary William Hague and echo these concerns.

You can take action on the ACTSA website.

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20 Responses to “Invite to royal wedding should be withdrawn for Swaziland’s king”

  1. Eben Marks

    RT @leftfootfwd: Invite to royal wedding should be withdrawn for Swaziland's king: writes @ACTSA_UK's Mark Beacon

  2. Vic Langer

    “@ACTSA_UK : RT @leftfootfwd: Invite to #royalwedding should be withdrawn for #Swaziland King” defo worth a read!

  3. Commenter

    I don’t think Mswati is an absolute monarch. A new constitution was adopted in 2005 which imposes some limits on the king, albeit weak ones.

  4. Extradition Game

    RT @leftfootfwd: Invite to royal wedding should be withdrawn for Swaziland's king: writes @ACTSA_UK's Mark Beacon

  5. Zizwe Vilane

    Dear Mark,

    Your article is noted. Whilst we exist in a world of freedom of speech, we must refrain from abusing such privileges in distorting facts. The picture you created of civil service cuts and 7,000 redudencies you mentioned, including power cuts to Government departments are incorrect. Firstly civil service cuts are the recommendation of the IMF and have not been effected by the government as they are considering all options. The electricity company did raise a threat that they will cut power for unpaid bills, but did not actually cut power and such statements from the power company are not new. So please, if you want to help Africa/Swaziland encourage investors to come and employ the “oppressed” masses, instead of trying to scare them away with incomplete information. Have a great day and continue to give us goo reporting.

  6. SlashedUK

    RT @leftfootfwd: Invite to royal wedding should be withdrawn for Swaziland's king: writes @ACTSA_UK's Mark Beacon

  7. Hitchin England

    RT @leftfootfwd: Invite to royal wedding should be withdrawn for Swaziland's king: writes @ACTSA_UK's Mark Beacon

  8. DrKMJ

    RT @leftfootfwd: Invite to royal wedding should be withdrawn for Swaziland's king: writes @ACTSA_UK's Mark Beacon

  9. ddsnorth ™®

    RT @DrKMJ: RT @leftfootfwd: Invite to royal wedding should be withdrawn for Swaziland's king: writes @ACTSA_UK's Ma …

  10. Extradition Game

    RT @leftfootfwd: Invite to royal wedding should be withdrawn for Swaziland's king: writes @ACTSA_UK's Mark Beacon

  11. Top Politics Tweets

    RT @leftfootfwd: Invite to royal wedding should be withdrawn for Swaziland's king: writes @ACTSA_UK's Mark Beacon

  12. Trakgalvis

    RT @leftfootfwd: Invite to royal wedding should be withdrawn for Swaziland's king: writes @ACTSA_UK's Mark Beacon

  13. Maroqui

    Reading: Invite to royal wedding should be withdrawn for Swaziland’s king

  14. Hitchin England

    RT @leftfootfwd: Invite to royal wedding should be withdrawn for Swaziland's king: writes @ACTSA_UK's Mark Beacon

  15. Andrew Dodgshon

    RT @leftfootfwd: Invite to royal wedding should be withdrawn for Swaziland's king: writes @ACTSA_UK's Mark Beacon

  16. Ylva Kronheffer

    RT @leftfootfwd: Invite to royal wedding should be withdrawn for Swaziland's king: writes @ACTSA_UK's Mark Beacon

  17. Royal wedding guest list is an embarrassment to the country | Left Foot Forward

    […] Left Foot Forward have previously reported there are still people on the list that the Foreign Office should not wish to enjoy “normal […]

  18. Emma Hoddinott

    RT @leftfootfwd: Invite to royal wedding should be withdrawn for Swaziland's king

  19. James

    The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has called on Swaziland to cut back on public expenditure to stop the Kingdom from going broke.
    It is extremely difficult to ascertain the exact truth of the cost of King Mswati III and his huge and increasing extended family, to the national budget. All we can do is put together facts that we know, it than becomes clear that the Royal Family is a huge financial burden on the Swazi national budget. Some members of parliament in Swaziland recently called for an inquiry into the amount of money the Royal Family has spent this year, they were however not given any answers but told that it is un-Swazi to question royal spending. They wanted primarily the amount of taxpayers’ money spent by the Swazi Royal Family on trips abroad cut back. According to the July 2005 Constitution of Swaziland the budget for the King and royal household cannot be reduced.
    Spending on the family of King Mswati III, this year (2011) is calculated at E41 million (4.6 million US dollars) in four months. The Swazi Government headed by Barnabas Dlamini, has budgeted E95 million for royal family trips abroad for the present financial year.
    This is only part of the expenses incurred by royalty outside the borders of Swaziland, most of the children of the King attend expensive private schools overseas where the school fee is in the region of E 40 000,- per month, on top of that each child is allocated up to 10000 euro per month as pocket money, in August 2009 the world (but not people in Swaziland) learned that five of King Mswati’s wives (he has 13 wife’s) went on a shopping spree around the costing in the region of 6 million US dollars.
    According to the 2011budget estimates released in February by Finance Minister, the royal budget shot up from last year’s (2010)E170 million and 2009E130 million to E210 million That is about five times higher than recurrent budget for the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs. The budget for the King is listed in the budget as ‘royal emoluments and civil list’ and is an increase from the E85.2 million he was given for the financial year 2007/2008. This figure, which is a part of the money the King draws from the Swazi people, he also receives money out of the defense budget and the budget for foreign affairs.
    Added to this is a shocking increase by E74 million for the office of the Minister of Defence. The minister’s office has been allocated a budget of E81 million. Last year the budget was E6.6 million. The E81 million becomes part of the Ministry of Defence’s recurrent budget of E623 million. Officially the E81 million budget for the minister’s office due to the reorganization of personnel in the ministry, the Royal Close Protection Unit which in terms of the reorganized structure is now catered for under the minister’s budget. Of note is that even though the defense ministry does not have a substantive minister, the costs of running this office is about twice the budget given to each ministry that has a minister and a clear and identifiable office. The ministry is run by the Minister of foreign affairs Lutfo Dlamini. Who earlier this year was suspended from cabinet together with the Swazi Ambassador to Kuwait (officially they were on leave) for having sidetracked money’s (about 12 millionUS$) received for the King from the Prime Minister of Kuwait (who is rumored to be having an affair and a child with one of the Kings Daughters; Temaswati) The reasons for the suspension were never made official, and the reasons why the suspensions did not result in dismissal were also not made public, but it is common knowledge that the dismissal of the Minister of Foreign affairs was stopped by the Kings Mother who is commonly said to be having a long running affair with the minister.
    Of interest is that the royal emoluments and civil list amount to more than the money Swaziland will spend on capital expenditure for education (E113 million) or capital expenditure on social security and welfare (E73 million). In Swaziland 70 percent of the families of one million Swazi people live on less than E10 a day, while the Royal Family gets by on more than a third of a million a day. In the present financial year, the total amount of income tax collected from individuals working in Swaziland is estimated to be E1,080 million, or put another way it means that each person who pays tax in the kingdom is giving more than E8 in every 100 to the king’s family. In April 2008, the Nation magazine, an independent monthly magazine of news and comment in Swaziland, reported that the king was receiving funds illegally from the state as the finance minister did not act in accordance with the Royal Emoluments and Civil List Act as amended in 1998.
    In April 2009, the King bought 20 top-of-the-range armour-plated Mercedes Benz S600 Pullman Guards cars for his wives at an estimated cost of E2.5 million (about 250,000 US dollars) each. The Nation Magazine can reveal that last year, the King’s Office spent about E13 million ($1 864 607) on internal decor for three of the royal guest houses.
    According to Forbes in the United States, King Mswati himself has a personal fortune estimated at 200 million US dollars. Just where the king gets his money from is a carefully guarded secret, but according to he owns (among other things) 10 per cent of every mining company in Swaziland. Forbes says 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, which has allowed him to build palaces for each of his wives and stay at five-star hotels when abroad. He is also rumored to be owning shares in various companies in Swaziland, some of them through proxy ownership, were for instance the former Minister of Justice owned shares in Inyatsi constructions (a major civil engineering company in the country that receives lucrative tenders for various capital projects in Swaziland) these shares were originally belonging to Tibiyo , a company supposedly held in trust for the Swazi nation The King also holds about 30% shares in the only local Cell phone company (MTN Swaziland) via the Swaziland empowerment fund, one of the proxies for the king in the Fund is said to be the present Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini.
    According to Majozi Sithole, the present Minister of Finance corruption accounts for E80 million a month of public funds. The high way build from the Ngwenya Border post to the Capital Mbabane is reportedly among the most expensive highways in the world, not because it is the most modern or because it involved such high construction cost, according to consultants mainly because of corruption. The new international Airport under construction for the past 11 years regularly overshoots the budget allocations, it has by now cost far in excess of E 700 million emalangeni. (one of the major construction companies involved is Inyatsi) The King has instructed that the link roads to his different palaces’ around the country a to be upgraded, The road at Nkoyoyo palace on which the King frequently goes for a jog is being extensively upgraded, while the mayor road in the Mbabane Industrial site cannot be upgraded because it is to costly, the road at Nkoyoyo is used by less than 100 cars per day, while the road in the Industrial site is used by over 1000 cars per day. The Nkoyoyo road is upgraded to the most modern specifications and is about three kilometer long. All these are just a few examples of the wasteful and unproductive spending of the Swazi government. Any half good accountant should be able to see that and therefore the IMF should by rights refuse to give Swaziland the desired letter of Comfort.

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