- Reports that Swaziland's King Mswati II has bought a luxury car worth US$ 500,000 again has provoked the population in the impoverished nation. The excessive spending of the young King has caused protests by the opposition and foreign donors.
Swaziland is living through its worst crisis yet in history. Two thirds of the population is living on less than one US dollar a day. Years of drought have caused malnutrition rates among children to boom. No country in the world has higher HIV infection rates than Swaziland; around 40 percent. The population thus depends totally on the goodwill of foreign donors.
This goodwill is however crumbling. "Swaziland's big spender does it again," is today's title in South Africa's leading daily, the 'Mail and Guardian'. No further explanation is necessary to understand who is referred to. King Mswati III has a long record of overspending while his people is suffering from hunger.
This time, the 36-year-old Swazi King has spent US$ 500,000 on a new DaimlerChrysler Maybach 62 with all possible luxury extras, including a fridge and DVD player. The extraordinary shopping was carried out last week but only known to the public on Sunday after reports by the British press.
Today, Swazi politicians and representatives from the donor community have strongly protested the excessive luxury of the King. "It is puzzling how a head of state could buy a car for just about US$ 500,000 when his nation is surviving on food aid," Mario Masuku, leader of the opposition People's United Democratic Movement, today told the US news agency AP.
Also representatives of foreign donors today reacted negatively to the new luxury spending of the Swazi King, who has earlier been given warnings to spend more on poverty and less on himself. Most foreign aid is now channelled directly to UN agencies as the World Food Programme (WFP), which is feeding more than 100,000 Swazis, and other agencies addressing the country's AIDS crisis.
Only in January this year, international donor agencies had to condemn the government's plans to spend more than US$ 14 million to construct new palaces for each of King Mswati's 11 wives. Aid workers confirmed that Swaziland had already become harder to sell regarding fundraising due to all the scandals surrounding the royal family's excessive spending.
One year ago, Swaziland's royalties made international headlines when King Mswati's aunts complained about new luxury houses built for them, considering them inferior to the standard appropriate for the many widows after late King Sobhuza. The widows and Swazi princes also complained that the BMW luxury sedans the government has purchased for them at taxpayer's expense were "not enough."
In October 2002 the Swazi parliament turned down a request to finance a luxury jet plane worth US$ 45 million for the personal use of Mswati III, following strong national and international protests. US$ 45 million equals two Swazi annual health budgets.
In February this year, Swaziland's Prime Minister Themba Dlamini declared that the country was in a state of national disaster due to the effects of drought, hailstorms and the HIV/AIDS pandemic. He promised that that more of state resources would be directed towards the humanitarian crisis and that government spending would become more transparent. These statements were also aimed at attracting foreign donors following the negative reporting about King Mswati's spending.
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.