I don’t know the truth of this – I haven’t seen the Rolls Royce with my own eyes - but it rings horribly true.
It is difficult to get at the truth of the king’s latest purchase because it is said that the news media in Swaziland have been banned from reporting about it.
The purchase of the Rolls Royce should once again turn the spotlight on a king who now seems to have completely lost touch with his people. In January 2010, the Swazi Government decreed that all government departments should cut their spending by 14 percent because the kingdom was going broke after cash receipts from the Southern Africa Customs Union (SACU) were slashed from E6 billion to E1.9 billion. SACU receipts accounted for 66 percent of Swaziland’s budget last year.
When the cuts start to bite, it is expected that schools will close, health services will be slashed and many civil servants will be out of a job.
Last month (March 2010), Swaziland’s Minister of Finance Majozi Sithole, announced that the poorest in the kingdom would now have to pay income tax to contribute to what he calls the cost of the kingdom’s ‘social programme’. I’m sure they’ll be pleased to see the king in his new motor.
King Mswati has form when it comes to bullying the media in Swaziland. In May 2009, he threatened the independent Times of Swaziland group of newspapers with sanctions (including possible closure) after it reported that the king had bought the Mercedes cars.
In March 2007, the Times Sunday published a report from the international news agency Afro (click here to read it) that criticised the king and included a reference to the king’s spending, ‘Swaziland is increasingly paralysed by poor governance, corruption and the private spending of authoritarian King Mswati III and his large royal family.’
The article went on to say, ‘The growing social crisis in the country and the lessening interest of donors to support King Mswati’s regime has also created escalating needs for social services beyond the scale of national budgets.’
King Mswati threatened to close down the Times group unless an unreserved apology was printed. It was, and the newspapers survived.