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Swazi Opposition Urges King to Cancel Birthday Celebrations

PUDEMO founding member Mphandlana Shongwe says Swaziland is experiencing economic hardships

His Majesty Mswati III King of the Kingdom Swaziland
His Majesty Mswati III King of the Kingdom Swaziland

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James Butty

A founding member of Swaziland’s banned opposition People’s United Democratic Movement [PUDEMO] party says King Mswati III should cancel his upcoming April 19th birthday celebrations.

The estimated cost of the celebrations is $652,000.

But PUDEMO founding member Mphandlana Shongwe said the current economic hardships confronting the Swazi people make it imperative for the king to cancel this year’s celebrations.

“In times of economic hardship, one would expect a reasonable institution to postpone or cancel or even foot the bill for itself,” he said.

Shongwe said King Mswati III, believed to be among the world’s 15 richest monarchs with a personal fortune of more than $100 million, should be able to foot the cost of his own birthday celebration.

“It is very unbelievable that the institution of the monarchy can run out of funds. Yet, it controls almost all the companies in the country,” Shongwe said.

He said Swazis are overburdened by taxes, and should not be asked to contribute to the king’s birthday celebration.

Shongwe said the king is welcome to celebrate his birthday as long as Swazis do not have to foot the bill.

Government spokesman Percy Simelane accused the opposition of over-exaggeration.

“As expected, the opposition normally comes out shooting down anything to do with the king or government. And even when they are serious, people don’t normally take them seriously,” Simelane said.

He said King Mswati III was able to find money from non-public sources for the celebrations, and that preparations are far advanced for the celebrations.

“Last year we didn’t have the celebrations because we were going through tough times. It is better this year. The king, from other coffers rather than public coffers, was able to put together a small budget for the celebrations. It did not take much money from the public funds apart from maybe transport, if it were,” he said.

The country’s home affairs minister announced early this month that the King has ordered host chiefs to make cows available to be slaughtered for his birthday celebrations.

Simelane said it is a tradition to contribute to the king’s birthday celebration, and chiefs are never forced.

“Normally when there are celebrations such as this one, the chiefs are not forced to pay anything. It’s a tradition that they contribute towards that particular occasion. Customarily, we normally contribute to the king or to chiefs themselves at this point in time,” Simelane said.

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