Court Confirms King Above Law (allAfrica.com)

Swaziland’s Supreme Court has overturned a ruling that King Mswati III should pay rates for properties in his name.

In 2014 the Swazi High Court had ruled that the King, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, should pay E571,174.90 (about US$50,000) to the Municipal Council of Manzini.

Now, the Supreme Court has ruled that the Swazi Constitution states that laws of the land do not apply to the King and the Queen Mother.

The Sunday Observer, a newspaper in Swaziland in effect owned by the King, reported the case started in 2012 when the Municipal Council of Manzini took Tisuka TakaNgwane – a royal institution that is a subsidiary of Tibiyo TakaNgwane (also a royal institution) – to court demanding payment in rates arrears for a property situated in a portion of Farm 189 situated in the Manzini District.

The High Court had ruled that property owned by the King was not exempt from payment of rates if it was held for his private financial profit.

The Supreme Court ruled that in accordance with the kingdom’s Constitution, the King was immune from paying rates on all property owned by him in any private capacity.

Section 10 of the Constitution states ‘The King and Ingwenyama [Queen Mother] shall be immune from taxation in respect of his Civil List, all income accruing to him and all property owned by him in any private capacity.’

Section 11 of the Constitution also says the King and Ingwenyama shall be immune from ‘(a) a suit or legal process in any cause in respect of all things done or omitted to be done by him, and (b) being summoned to appear as a witness in any civil or criminal proceedings.’

In June 2015, the Nation, an independent monthly magazine in Swaziland, reported that the Swazi people were paying more than ever for the upkeep of the King, his 14 wives and vast Royal Family.

It reported that in 2015, ‘The overall [annual] budget for King Mswati and the royal household took a significant increase of about 25 percent from E630 million [US$63 million] to E792 million. This reflects a staggering E162 million increase and accounts for just about five percent of the overall national budget. This has been the trend for some years.’

King Mswati lives a lavish lifestyle with 13 palaces, a private jet aircraft and fleets of Mercedes and BMW cars. Meanwhile seven in ten of his 1.3 million subjects live in abject poverty with incomes of less than US$2 a day.

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