Swaziland: King to Party While Swazis Go Hungry

King Mswati III of Swaziland has collected about E40 million (US$3 million) to host a lavish SADC Heads of State summit at a time when his government could release only E22 million of the E305 million earmarked for drought relief in this year's national budget.

The King, who is sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch, is to assume the chair of the Southern African Development Community on 17 August 2016.

About 300,000 of the Swazi 1.3 million population face severe hunger as drought hits the southern African region. Despite this, the King called for donations from parastatal organisations, businesses and overseas' companies to allow him to host what the Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King, called 'an epic event'.

The newspaper reported on Saturday (30 July 2016) that, 'the King expressed pleasure that the donations proved quite enough to assist the country host an epic event'. He reportedly praised foreign investors for coming forward with 'notable donations'.

The Observer also reported that among donations offered to the King were avocadoes, fruit and vegetables that would be used for meals during the summit.

While King Mswati prepares to party his subjects are ravaged by drought. In April 2016, UNICEF - the United Nations Children's Fund - reported it needed US$151,200 for its Child Protection work relating to the drought that has hit Swaziland. In June 2016 it reported that no money at all was forthcoming. It estimated that 189,000 children under the age of 18 were affected by the drought.

In July 2016, James Simelane, Member of Parliament for Sandleni Constituency in the Shiselweni region, was reported in the Swazi Observer newspaper saying people had started dying of hunger in his constituency because the Swazi Government had failed to deliver food to drought-stricken areas.

As of the end of May 2016, UNICEF estimated 300,320 people in total in Swaziland were affected by drought of which 189,000 were children. It estimated that 165,000 children affected were by drought in the two most affected regions of Lubombo and Shiselweni.

A total of 200,897 people were food insecure, of which 90,404 were children. Of these, 8,460 children aged 6 to 59 months were affected by 'severe and moderate acute malnutrition'.

Also in July 2016, it was revealed that King Mswati was about to receive a 375-seater private jet worth about US$14 million paid for by his Government.

Meanwhile, the Swazi Government has released only E22 million of the E305 million earmarked for drought relief in this year's national budget. The Swazi Observer newspaper reported on 11 July 2016 that the Deputy Prime Minister Paul Dlamini announced this to the House of Assembly.

The newspaper reported he 'failed to explain the reasons behind government's failure to purchase and distribute food to the affected communities'.

Source: Swazi Media Commentary.