Swaziland’s King Mswati III took a lot of heat in January when he announced that he was going to begin construction on a set of nine palaces at a cost of $15 million. The palaces will house 7 of the king’s 10 wives.
This comes at a time when up to one-third of Swaziland’s population will require international food aid.
The king is certainly no slouch when it comes to spending while his subjects are on the verge of starvation. In November 2003 he spent more than $1 million to by BMWs for his late father’s surviving wives. What’s food compared to fine German automotive engineering?
The decision to build the palaces in light of the impending food crisis was widely condemned. Mario Masuku, president of opposition party People’s United Democratic Movement — which the king has banned — said of the announcement,
We are angered and embarrassed by the wanton, senseless and limitless expenditure by the monarchist government of Swaziland. [The palace construction] is typical of an autocratic regime lacking the democratic fundamentals of inclusivity and grass-root participation.
Swazi King to Build New Palaces Despite Population’s Hunger. UNWire, January 16, 2004.
Swaziland: Donors condemn palace building programme. Integrated Regional Information Network, January 19, 2004.