SWAZILAND: An Imminent Overthrow Of A Parasite Monarchy…part 1

In ESSAY on November 11, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Swaziland has the world’s highest HIV rates and lowest life expectancy. The economy is collapsing so fast even pensions have
been stopped while poverty is so extreme people have resorted to eating cow dung.

Such is the King’s arrogance and incompetence, his country is probably closer than any other in sub-Saharan Africa to the sort
of uprising we have seen sweeping the north of the continent this year. ‘We are in meltdown,’ said Bheki Makhubu,
editor of The Nation newspaper. ‘It’s a terrible pity. There is a huge disconnect between the King and his people. He is on another planet.’

Visiting the kingdom, it appears outwardly calm. The shops seem prosperous, the streets spotlessly tidy and there are none of the wretched townships that scar neighbouring states.

Swaziland is classified as a middle-income country. When I remarked to one activist that the nation was poor, he
reprimanded me. ‘We are not a poor country — just badly run,’ he said. ‘I have been to Togo and Ethiopia and seen really poor countries.’

But Swaziland is effectively bankrupt. Already, two-thirds of its people live beneath the poverty line and 40 per cent are unemployed. Now state spending has been slashed, with street lights switched off, schools closed, benefits stopped, university places cut, courts in chaos, prisoners’ food reduced and even the national football team facing withdrawal from the World Cup.

Incredibly, one in four of those people passed on the Swazi streets is HIV positive. And these are the official levels — it may be even worse: tests carried out on pregnant women revealed infection rates of 41 per cent, while more than half of factory workers were found to have the virus.

As a result, nearly one-third of children are orphaned and life expectancy has crashed from 60 to just 33 — which, as one person pointed out, made me an old man there. Everyone you talk to, whatever their age, has lost scores of friends and family to the scourge, and funerals, with their
all-night vigils, are commonplace. Such shocking statistics make the King’s polygamy, promiscuity and profligacy seem lethally irresponsible. Little wonder one of the world’s oldest monarchies is fighting for survival.

‘Sometimes I wish I had a bomb and I would throw it at the King,’ said one of the young organisers of protests against him.

‘We can’t go on living like this. It hurts so much to see the King wasting all our money while we have no work.’

King Mswati ascended the throne 25 years ago straight after leaving Sherborne, the Dorset public school. He was an unexpected choice to succeed his father, the revered Sobhuza II, who had reigned for nearly 83 years — the longest documented rule of any monarch in world history — and
oversaw the country’s independence from Britain in 1968. At the time of Sobhuza’s death he had 70 wives, 210 children and 1,000 grandchildren. Mswati’s mother — rumoured to have been a palace maid who caught the eye of the late king — took advantage of a power vacuum to manouevre her son into power.

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