Tuesday, April 25, 2017


Swaziland lawmakers have been told that the King’s jet will cost the impoverished kingdom US$12.6 million. In the national budget in February 2016, E96 million (about US$7.3 million) had been set aside for the jet. 

There is some confusion about the true cost of the plane. A report in the Swazi Observer newspaper on 15 March 2017 said Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation ‘was given E296 million, during the current financial year, to buy the state jet and E96 million was used to pay deposit for the airplane’. 

The jet is a 15-year-old Airbus A340 owned by China Airlines in Taiwan and after refurbishments it is expected to accommodate about 60 to 90 people. 

Politicians and the media in Swaziland consistently say the Airbus is being purchased as a ‘state jet’, but it has now been confirmed it will be for the sole use of King Mswati III who rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Chief Mgwagwa Gamedze told a parliamentary workshop on Thursday (20 April 2017) government had committed itself to pay the equivalent of E166 million (US$12.65 million).

According to The Swazi Observer (21 April 2017), a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, Gamedze revealed the government had agreed to pay for the jet in two equal instalments and one had already been paid. The plane is expected to arrive in Swaziland early in 2018.

The King already has a smaller McDonnell Douglas DC-9-87 jet plane.

The Observer reported that Gamedze told the workshop the plane could only be used by heads of state, ‘not just anyone’. 

He said it was possible that the jet might be hired out to other users. The newspaper reported him saying, ‘It is true that we need money as a country. But we cannot give this plane to just anyone .We know that many people can afford to hire it, but the plane will only be given to someone who occupies a status that is similar to that of the King.’

King Mswati rules over a population of 1.3 million people. Seven in ten live in abject poverty with incomes less than US$2 a day. The King lives a lavish lifestyle with 13 palaces, a private jet, fleets of top-of-the range Mercedes and BMW cars and at least one Rolls-Royce.

In April 2016, Members of the Swaziland Parliament blocked the move to allocate money for the jet. Once news of the intended spending was made public outside of Swaziland the King came in for heavy criticism. Swaziland was in the grip of a drought crisis and in February the Swazi Government declared a national emergency and said the kingdom would need E248 million (US$16 million) before the end of April 2016.

Within days, the MPs overturned their earlier decision. Unconfirmed reports circulating on the Internet said that King Mswati had refused to sign-off Swaziland’s budget unless he got his jet.

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Monday, April 24, 2017


King Mswati III, who rules as an absolute monarch over the destitute kingdom of Swaziland, appears to have a God delusion.

The King and his family say they have a direct-line to God. In 2013, King Mswati’s elder brother, Prince Masitsela Dlamini, told African Eye News Service that God had given the royal family authority to rule over other Swazi clans. ‘The Dlaminis are closer to God,’ said Dlamini.

In 2011, the King said God spoke to him through a TV remote control. It happened at the Lozitha Palace, near Mbabane. At the time the King told his subjects about his ‘miraculous experience’.

The Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only independent daily newspaper, reported in October 2011, ‘His Majesty saw a miracle yesterday when he was preparing a sermon [to preach to a group of evangelical Christians.] The King said a remote control lay at the centre of a coffee table but something mysteriously brought it down.

‘He said there was no person or wind that could have brought it down.  The King said he realised that God was with him.  It was Him who brought the remote control down.’

Reverend Jonas Dlamini, one of the king’s preachers, said, ‘The King preached to us. He was filled with the light of the Lord when he told us that God had given him a sign when he was getting ready to meet us.  He said a TV remote on his table dropped to the floor with no one touching it and that is how he knew God was communicating with him.’

In September 2013, the King himself told his subjects he had received a vision during a thunderstorm and was told that the political system in Swaziland that puts the King at the head and bans political parties should from then on be called ‘Monarchical Democracy.’

It helps the King and his supporters if people think King Mswati is chosen by God. It suggests the King has special abilities and wisdom. For that reason, his word must be obeyed. Those who speak against the King, speak also against God and who can dare criticise God?

Of course, King Mswati wasn’t chosen by God. A political group plotting within the ruling elite of Swaziland chose him. 

The Nation, a monthly magazine of comment in Swaziland, in July 2008 reported extensively about a documentary called Without The King that revealed how the present King came to the throne – and the manoeuvrings were positively Shakespearian. 

Unlike in many societies that still have monarchs, in Swaziland the eldest son doesn’t simply become king once the reigning monarch dies. The king is chosen ‘by virtue of the rank and character of his mother in accordance with Swazi law and custom’. But the part of Swazi law and custom relating to the selection of a successor to a king is unknown to a majority of ordinary Swazi. It may include the mother to the heir.

The Nation reported, ‘In the documentary, King Mswati III shed some light on how he got to know that he would be the next King of Swaziland.

‘He said then he was about 12½ years of age and it was after the demise of his father, King Sobhuza II when the news were broke to him.

‘King Mswati III did not say anything about his mother who was then an ordinary wife to the late king. It was not until the then Supreme Council (Liqoqo) removed the then Queen Regent for the biological mother to the then Crown Prince that she was appointed to office.

‘The act drew reprisals for the Liqoqo members who ousted the then Queen Regent.

‘After the King was crowned, the Liqoqo members were charged with high treason arising from their decision to remove the Queen Regent Dzeliwe. Some were found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment terms as high as 15 years.

‘The King subsequently pardoned them.’

One biography of King Mswati  says the story of how King Mswati, who was known as Prince Makhosetive as a child, became the monarch goes like this. 

‘King Sobhuza II had deftly managed to hold rivalling power factions within the royal ruling alliance in check, and so his death in August 1982, left a power vacuum.’

At this time Makhosetive was 15 years old and a schoolboy at Sherborne in England.

‘In keeping with tradition, Makhosetive’s appointment by his father was not publicly announced. Before his death the King had chosen one of his queens, the childless Princess Dzeliwe, to preside over the monarchy as regent until the prince turned 21 years of age. 

‘It was in keeping with tradition that she be childless, so that she would not involve herself in a factional struggle to advance the position of her own son. Factional quarrels broke out into the open, however, in the interregnum period, while the prince was [at school] in the United Kingdom. 

‘Continuing disputes led members of the Liqoqo, a supreme traditional advisory body, to force the Queen Regent to resign. In her stead the Liqoqo appointed Queen Ntombi, Prince Makhosetive’s mother, who initially refused to take up the position.

Further disputes between royal factions led to his coronation as King Mswati III, at the age of 18, in April 1986, three years earlier than expected.

At the time, the King was the youngest monarch in the world. 

‘Observers saw the early coronation as an attempt on the part of the Liqoqo to legitimate the usurpation of Dzeliwe and consolidate their gains in power. Prince Makhosetive, now King Mswati III, acted quickly however to disband the Liqoqo and call for parliamentary elections.

In May 1986 Mswati dismissed the Liqoqo, the traditional advisory council to regents, which had assumed greater powers than were customary. In July 1986 he dismissed and charged with treason Prime Minister Prince Bhekimpi and several government officials for their role in the ejection of Queen Regent Dzeliwe, though he eventually pardoned those who were convicted.

Another biography of King Mswati says, ‘King Mswati’s first two years of rule were characterized by a continuing struggle to gain control of the government and consolidate his rule.

‘Immediately following his coronation, Mswati disbanded the Liqoqo and revised his cabinet appointments. In October 1986 Prime Minister Bhekimpi Dlamini was dismissed and for the first time a nonroyal, Sotsha Dlamini, was chosen for the post.

‘Prince Bhekimpi and 11 other important Swazi figures were arrested in June 1987. [Prince] Mfanasibili, [Prince] Bhekimpi, and eight others were convicted of high treason. Eight of those convicted, however, were eventually pardoned.

In 2011, court papers relating to the treason trial that was held in secret come to light after 23 years. The papers that had been deliberately removed from Swaziland after the trial in 1987 were unearthed in Namibia. 

They have not been released to the public and might contain details about the plotting that surrounded King Mswati’s rise to power. The papers might also remind the King’s subjects that he is really only where he is today because of political intrigue.

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Friday, April 21, 2017


As the discredited campaign to circumcise men in Swaziland to prevent HIV infection continues to fail, two government ministries are now targeting schoolboys.

A Back to School 2017 campaign has been launched in by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education in partnership. It aims to help get 80 percent of Swazi males circumcised by 2022. Schoolboys will be ‘sensitised’ to the supposed-need to have their foreskins cut off to prevent HIV infection.

The target that 80 percent of Swazi males between ages 15 and 49 should be circumcised was made in 2010 when the Accelerated Saturation Initiative (ASI) was introduced into the kingdom with the aim of reaching the goal within a year.

programme, a partnership between the Swazi Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and the US-based Futures Group, was then extended to March 2012 when initial efforts failed to achieve the targeted results and only about 20 percent - or 32,000 - people were circumcised through the programme. The figure for the number of males in the targeted age range is not easily available but there are estimated to be 384,171 males aged between 15 and 65 in Swaziland.

 US$15.5 million was spent on the programme, or US$484 per circumcised male.

In 2015, the deadline to reach the target was extended to 2018. Now, that deadline has been extended further to 2022. The Swazi Ministry of Health reported 96,487 males had been circumcised since 2009.

The male medical circumcision programme which has been introduced in a number of countries in Africa, but not in developed countries such as the United States or in Europe, is based on a claim that removing the foreskin helps to prevent the spread of HIV. However, evidence does not support this. 

A report called Levels and spread of HIV seroprevalence and associated factors: evidence from national household surveys published by USAID, for example, which studied 22 developing countries, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa, found, ‘There appears no clear pattern of association between male circumcision and HIV prevalence - in 8 of 18 countries with data, HIV prevalence is lower among circumcised men, while in the remaining 10 countries it is higher.
In Swaziland, even before the ASI was started in 2010, the Government of Swaziland knew circumcision had no effect on the rate of HIV in the kingdom. The Swaziland Demographic and Health Survey (SDHS) of 2007 reported the infection rate for circumcised males was 22 percent while for those uncircumcised it was 20 percent, which suggested that circumcision did not prevent HIV spreading. 

The Swaziland Government has signed up for circumcision in a big way since 2010, even announcing that newly born babies, who have no say in the matter, were expected to be cut. 

People in Swaziland are being misled into believing that circumcision can help, when the international medical community continues to debate whether there is any evidence that it can. An internationally-based organisation called Doctors Opposing Circumcision (DOC) published a lengthy report in which it urged that ‘Both the public and the medical community must guard against being overwhelmed by the hyperbolic promotion of male circumcision.’

DOC reported that there is no clear evidence as to the effects of circumcision.

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