Swaziland's big spender does it again

Opposition leaders on Monday slammed King Mswati III for spending millions of lilangeni on a luxury car at a time of food shortages in his impoverished Southern African country.

Africa’s last absolute monarch spent more than four million lilangeni (about R3,96-million) on a state-of-the-art DaimlerChrysler Maybach 62 last week, the Sunday Times reported.

Only four of the vehicles have been sold in Southern Africa. The others went to top South African businessmen Patrice Motsepe, Tokyo Sexwale and Cyril Ramaphosa, a DaimlerChrysler spokesperson told the newspaper.

“It is puzzling how a head of state could buy a car for just about $500 000 when his nation is surviving on food aid,” said Mario Masuku, leader of the opposition People’s United Democratic Movement. “The acquisition of this expensive car would send wrong signals to the donor community.”

Nomthetho Simelane, a University of Swaziland political scientist, said the purchase is a clear sign of a nation in trouble.

“It is unfortunate the king’s government is unable to prioritise and do things that will save the nation, as opposed to the interests of the monarch and his family,” Simelane said.

Telephone calls to the royal spokesperson seeking comment went unanswered on Monday.

Mswati’s lavish spending has repeatedly drawn criticism in this tiny kingdom, riven with poverty and Aids.

The 36-year-old monarch has already bought a stretch Rolls Royce and a fleet of BMW and Mercedes Benz vehicles for himself and his 10 official wives.

Last year, he also bought a Mercedes-Benz to chauffeur two children who are attending school in London.
But when he tried to purchase a luxury jet, street protests in Swaziland forced him to abandon the plan.

About 66% of Swaziland’s one million people live below the poverty line. The World Food Programme was feeding up to 150 000 people this year after a devastating drought.—Sapa-AP

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