King Mswati III of Swaziland, among the world’s 15 richest monarchs, is demanding his dirt-poor subjects give him cows for his birthday celebrations.
The king, who is also sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, also wants businesses to sponsor the party for his 44th birthday which is on 19 April.
The AFP news agency reported that the Swazi Home Affairs Minister Prince Gcokoma said, ‘Chiefs from the Shiselweni [region] as hosts are expected to provide cattle to be slaughtered on the day.’
King Mswati was reported by Forbes in 2009 to have a personal fortune of US$200 million. By contrast seven out of 10 of his subjects earn less than US$2 a day.
Prince Gcokoma said the people of Shiselweni were, ‘fully aware of the fundamental role they’re expected to play as they are the ones who will be hosting the king on his memorable day’.
Swaziland is broke and the government – hand-picked by the king – is having trouble paying its bills, including the salaries of public servants.
Prince Gcokoma was quoted in the local media saying local businesses should also make meaningful contributions towards making the celebrations a massive success.
In 2008, an estimated US$6.5 million was spent on King Mswati’s 40th birthday celebrations which coincided with the 40th anniversary of Swaziland’s independence from Great Britain.