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Friday 20 April 2018


Kenworthy News Media, 19 April 2018
Swaziland is one of the world’s most unequal countries, where over ten percent survive on food aid. Absolute monarch King Mswati is celebrating his and his independent country’s 50th birthday by giving himself a new plane and throwing a huge party, writes Kenworthy News Media.

Today (19 April 2018), Swaziland’s absolute monarch King Mswati III begun what Swaziland’s official tourist website refers to as “lavish celebrations” and “a party fit for a king”.

The so-called 50/50 celebrations are a combined celebration of Mswati’s 50th birthday and the 50th anniversary of Swaziland’s independence in September.

King Mswati amongst other things bought himself an A340-300 Airbus that was flown into the King Mswati III Airport a couple of days ago. The plane is believed to have cost US$15 million.

Food aid and evictions
Many of King Mswati’s subjects can only dream of such opulence. According to the World Food Programme, about 14 percent survive on food aid from the UN. According to the World Bank, over 40 percent earn less than US$1.90 a day.

Just days before the celebrations, Pakistan donated 1 million US Dollars to help feed starving children in Swaziland, according to Swazi Media Commentary. The Swazi government claimed it could not afford to pay for the food.

Two weeks ago, 61 people in rural Swaziland, including more than 30 children, were left homeless after their homes were demolished by armed police and bulldozers, Amnesty International reported. The evictions were carried out in accordance with a court order.

“The affected people were not provided with an alternative accommodation, forcing some of them to take refuge at a local school. Others slept in the open at the site of the demolitions with their belongings”, Amnesty International wrote in a press release.

According to the British human rights organisation, “Swaziland has a long history of forced evictions”.

Robin Hood in reverse
Many ordinary Swazis have been forced to contribute to King Mswati’s celebrations, even though he is worth an estimated US$200 million.

South African paper eNCA reported, that over $80.000 that had been intended for retired and disabled people in Swaziland were instead used to help pay for King Mswati’s birthday party.
Judges were also sent a memorandum from the office of Swaziland’s Chief Justice on April 4, where they were asked to make a contribution of a minimum of $160 for the 50/50 celebrations.

Coupless dictatorship
According to government spokesperson Percy Simelane, the 50/50 celebrations are worth celebrating, however, because of Swaziland’s peaceful history since independence.

“We are politically stable and have never experienced a coup in those 50 years”, he told online newspaper The Swaziland.

But the so-called peaceful nature of King Mswati’s regime comes at a price, especially for ordinary Swazis.

The King controls parliament, the judiciary and the economy. Political parties are banned from taking part in elections. Political activists are beaten up by police. And those advocating democracy are prosecuted under a terrorism act that Amnesty International has called “inherently repressive”.

Change through activism and democracy
Even so, people in Swaziland continue to protest. Every year, on the anniversary of Swaziland’s independence from Great Britain on 6 September, Swaziland’s democratic movement campaign for democracy through marches, seminars and workshops. This so-called Global Week of Action is organised by the Swaziland United Democratic Front.

Last year between four and five thousand people marched to Swaziland’s parliament to deliver a petition demanding a people’s government, land reforms, rural development and affordable health and education.

And as recently as last Friday (13 April 2018), about 2.000 people marched through the capital Mbabane to protest against poor and worsening living conditions. The march was arranged by the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland.

According to political coordinator of the Swaziland United Democratic Front, Wandile Dludlu, bringing about democratic change in Swaziland is the only way to improve the situation for the majority of Swazis.

“Until Swazis truly own and run their country, celebrations such as 50/50 are just personal enrichment journeys of the king and his close associates, local as well as international”, says Dludlu.

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