Swaziland: King’s Spending – U.S. ‘Might Halt Aid’

Lisa Peterson, the US ambassador to Swaziland, has said the kingdom might not receive further food aid from her country because of the Swazi King's 'lavish spending' on holidays.

She was responding to media after it was revealed that at least three of King Mswati III's wives were on holiday in Orlando, Florida last week - with an entourage of more than 100.

The cost of this holiday was equivalent to the drought relief that the US was currently providing to the drought-stricken country - E14 million (US$1 million).

News24 in South Africa reported Peterson saying the US had limited funds for drought relief. She said, 'When we hear of the lavish spending by the Swazi royal family - especially while a third of their citizens need food aid - it becomes difficult to encourage our government to make more emergency aid available. You can't expect international donors to give more money to the citizens of Swaziland than their own leaders give them.'

South African media have been reporting that the queens, their bodyguards, protocol officials, family and other 'support staff' were on the trip that was expected to last eight days.

The City Press newspaper in Johannesburg reported the vacation had irritated diplomats who were motivating for more drought relief aid for the kingdom, which is in the grips of the worst drought in 18 years.

It reported, 'According to diplomatic sources, meetings were held with the King, where objections to the holiday were raised.

'Mswati's defence was that the vacation had been planned and paid for in advance, and that a cancellation would result in an unnecessary loss of money.'

As of the end of May 2016, UNICEF - the United Nations Children's Fund - 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'.

Meanwhile, the Swazi Government has released only E22 million (US$1.5 million) of the E305 million earmarked for drought relief in this year's national budget. The Swazi Observer newspaper reported on Monday (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'.

Swaziland is in the grip of a drought crisis and in February 2016 the Swazi Government declared a national emergency and said the kingdom would need E248 million (US$16 million) before the end of April 2016 for relief.

Earlier 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.

Source: Swazi Media Commentary.

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