Times Live, South Africa
13 June 2011
African leaders live it up at ultra-expensive Joburg hotel
Swaziland's embattled King Mswati III was enjoying the high life in the up-market Saxon boutique hotel in Sandton, Johannesburg, at the weekend while attending two meetings of the Southern African Development Community.
The absolute monarch of impoverished Swaziland has been criticised widely for his lavish lifestyle.
Popular resentment led to an unsuccessful uprising against his regime this year. [April 2011].
Mswati and his delegation, which included princes, took over the newest section of the hotel, which was completed in time for last year's soccer World Cup.
Their nightly accommodation bill - for three villas at R7600 each and four presidential suites, at R16000 each - totalled R86800, excluding additional services, and food and drink.
Main courses in the hotel restaurant average R190.
Desserts, such as chocolate sorbets, tiramisu and apple tatin, start at R95 each.
A single 50ml serving of brandy costs up to R200. There are two 50ml measures of cognac on the menu costing R4000 each.
Mswati, who was attending both a SADC meeting on Zimbabwe at the weekend and a summit to discuss establishing the continent's biggest free-trade bloc, was not the only head of state to stay at the plush hotel.
Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki was also a guest at the Saxon.
Kibaki stayed in a presidential suite in the original hotel building, at a cost of R16000 a night.
Guests in this section are served a complimentary bottle of champagne - replenished every night by the hotel - as well as port and sherry.
They also have a 24-hour butler and service.
The exclusive hotel is behind high walls and a high wooden sliding gate in a garden oasis.
The hotel has previously hosted former US talkshow host Oprah Winfrey, former US president Bill Clinton, rock star Mick Jagger and actors Kevin Spacey and Morgan Freeman.
Nelson Mandela wrote parts of his biography at the hotel and his portraits adorn many of its walls.
It is not known who paid for accommodating the African heads of state attending the summit.
However, political analyst Stephen Friedman said that the SADC secretariat funded the work of SADC delegates.
The SADC receives annual contributions of about R175-million from the governments of its member states.