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Monday, 21 February 2011


As fears of social unrest gather pace in Swaziland there seems to be a campaign to show King Mswati III as a man of generosity and compassion.

The latest move came yesterday (20 February 2010) when the Times Sunday reported that King Mswati was paying the school fees for 500 Swazi children ‘out of his own pocket’.

The Times Sunday reported, ‘The King, out of generosity, is said to have made available a bursary scheme that catered for those who, for various reasons, did not get assistance from the country’s existing systems or institutions.’

Bheki Dlamini, the Chief Officer at the King’s Office, told the newspaper, ‘What you are asking me to shed light on is really a matter that when one analyses it and looks at what the King does in his personal capacity, one feels like crying. There are hundreds who have been assisted by him from his personal pocket.’

Poor Bheki, reduced to tears by King Mswati, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

I feel like crying too. With laughter. Who does Bheki Dlamini think he’s kidding? King Mswati isn’t paying school fees ‘out of his own pocket.’ King Mswati has never done a salaried day’s work in his life. Instead, he and his Royal Family, get E300,000 each and every day for their upkeep from the Swazi taxpayers.

On top of that he has a personal fortune (stolen from the Swazi people), estimated by Forbes in 2009 to be US$200 million. And only on Friday, the South African Mail and Guardian newspaper reminded us that the king was left US$10 billion by his father King Sobhuza II ‘in trust’ for the Swazi nation. It is this pot of gold the king uses to help finance his lavish lifestyles.

The nonsense about the King’s generosity over school fees is not the only time we have been misled about his so-called benevolence. Three weeks ago the Weekend Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the king himself, reported that Jim Gama, the ‘traditional’ prime minister of Swaziland, had his health bills paid ‘by the king’. Closer examination showed that wasn’t true.

It can’t be a coincidence that these stories about the kindness of the king come at a time of potential social unrest. A campaign for a mass demonstration on 12 April 2011 to force the king to step down is gathering pace. The King and his hangers-on can see the ongoing prodemocracy uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa and fear they could be next.

So don’t let’s be fooled by this nonsense about the generous king. The Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN) certainly wasn’t.

It said in a statement issued today, ‘The king is the number one reason why children in Swaziland lack funds for education. His failure to lead the country has rendered the country of a million people largely jobless. Instead of being wise enough to leave the running of the country to the people themselves, he has chosen to retain his dictatorship mainly because it is economically beneficial to him.

‘What entrepreneurship skills has the king ever shown in his reign? Is this not the very same business novice who has committed the nation to the construction of an airport worth over a billion Emalangeni, funds that could be better used to fund hundreds of thousands of pupils? The king is not an entrepreneur as some people would like to believe. He simply takes money from the country’s treasury and Tibiyo and invests it in his name in businesses both inside and outside the country. This is just abuse of power, not wealth creation. Whatever profits that result from those businesses are not his but belong to the very people he now pretends to be so in love with that he is willing to give them crumbs.’

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