The South African newspaper Mail and Guardian (M+G) lifts the lid on Swaziland’s King Mswati III in its edition today (18 February 2011).
In three separate articles, the M+G reports on his lavish lifestyle, his unhealthy attitude to women, and how as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, he rules with an iron fist.
The M+G, one of the most respected newspapers on the African continent, reports that King Mswati allegedly takes ‘non-menstruating girls’ out of ‘school classrooms’ who are then ‘made to strip naked and clean parts of the king’s royal kraal or household’.
‘In 2008 the king was widely condemned when he splashed out more than $3-million on a 40-40 celebration to mark his birthday and 40 years of independence in Swaziland.
‘As well as the incredible spending, there is also a soap-opera feel to the behaviour within the royal court and among the country’s elite. Last year Mswati fired the justice minister, Ndumiso Mamba, after he was found in bed with the king’s 12th wife and former Miss Teen Swaziland, 22-year-old Nothando Dube,’ M+G reports.
The M+G says Swaziland is a kingdom ‘Ruled by fear’. ‘Under Mswati's rule political parties have remained banned with various figures finding themselves arrested, often violently, and some charged with treason, sedition and subversion,’ M+G reports.
It adds, ‘In 2010 the Swaziland Democracy Coalition launched a Global Week of Action for democracy in Swaziland. The plan was to stage a series of talks, meetings and marches across the country and to build national and international solidarity for the Swazi cause.
‘The police, however, had other ideas. Working on intelligence, which many say came from tapped phones and intercepted emails, they stormed meetings, broke up protest marches and arrested close to 50 people.’
M+G says, ‘In April he is due to celebrate his silver jubilee -- 25 years in power -- and although the country has a Parliament, it is seen as ineffective and toothless, subordinate to the all-powerful king who himself chooses a number of the assembly’s members.’
M+G reports, ‘On April 19 the king will celebrate 25 years in power and there apparently are plans for a lavish silver jubilee celebration. It is likely no expense will be spared, regardless of Swaziland’s current economic plight.’
Visitors to Swaziland are told in advertising literature that Swaziland ‘embraces and upholds its own unique and ancient traditions’ making it a ‘very special place to visit’. But, the M+G says, ‘Although King Mswati III and his 13 wives may prove a draw for holidaymakers, his undemocratic system of governance is fast losing its shine among his subjects, 69% of whom live on less than $1 a day.’
The newspaper goes on, ‘If left unchecked, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) says the country’s public debt could swell to 75% of its GDP within just four years. Critics say the Sacu revenue fall is just the tip of the iceberg and that Swaziland's real problems stem from years of financial mismanagement and overspending by King Mswati III and his 13 wives.’
M+G concludes. ‘The IMF forecasts “social upheaval” across the country if action is not taken swiftly. It could be right. Economic breakdown may be what finally forces Africa’s last absolute monarchy to open the door to democratic rule.’
The three articles are available online.
Economic meltdown may be just the fuse Swaziland needs
Ruled by fear
The monarchy in the money