There is sweltering tension in eSwatini – formerly called Swaziland – following King Mswati III’s acquisition of 19 Rolls-Royces and as many as 120 BMWs.
The monarch is importing the luxury vehicles to please his 15 wives and 23 children at a time the kingdom is facing civil unrest over plummeting economic conditions and heightening poverty.
The Kingdom’s civil servants have been staging strikes for some time now, demanding better while tertiary institutions remain shut by the government after students poured onto the streets to protest poor education conditions.
The money spent by the eSwatini government in importing the new royal fleet is estimated to be more than $16 million. King Mswati III incensed critics with the spending as the vehicles were circulated on social media being delivered to the king’s palace from South Africa.
According to reports, BMW X3 and 5-Series models, which can cost more than £30,000 each, under wraps on the back of a truck were delivered to the king’s palace as they were shipped from South Africa.
Meanwhile, the average salary in eSwatini is estimated to be only $12,841.00 a year. This means a typical worker would have to work for 70 years to afford a Rolls-Royce.
A senior King’s advisor commenting on the purchase said the controversies surrounding the importation of the vehicles could have been managed better with communication, reports eSwatini Observer.
Prince Nhlonipho said there was nothing wrong with importation of the new vehicles, blaming the brewing controversy to lack of experience within government to handle the issue.
According to him, had the reason behind the importation been explained better to the populace there won’t be a public outcry. He said the lack of cogent explanation created into people’s mind the notion that the country’s leadership cares less about the citizenry.
“The new fleet of BMWs was indeed purchased as a replacement by government. They are used by the army and Royal eSwatini Police Service as royal escorts,” eSwatini Observer quoted him as saying.
The eSwatini ministry of public works and transport confirmed receiving the fleet of new BMWs in a statement issued on Friday.
The delivery followed that of 15 Rolls Royces shipped into SA through the Durban port and delivered to the King Mswati III’s Manzini royal palace.
Twelve trucks loaded with the latest model BMW X3 SUVs and BMW 540 sedans, mostly navy blue and some white, waited for hours in Carolina, about 100km from the Oshoek Swazi border post.
“The process to replace the existing fleet started in 2016, consistent with the prevailing government policy of replacing Government vehicles after five years,” Ndwandwe said.
“It’s a blatant display of arrogance and total disregard of the poor people of Swaziland’s feelings,” Wandile Dludlu, Secretary-General of the opposition People’s United Democratic Movement (Pudemo) told RFI.
“As a party, we are least concerned about how many wives and children he has.
“The big issue is that the national purse has to take care of someone’s children when ordinarily in modern politics there is supposed to be a separation between his private resources and the public purse,” he said.
Dludlu said: “The Swazi political system is meant to serve the monarchy and its cronies, not the people”.
The Kingdom of Swaziland gained independence from Great Britain on 6 September 1968 and the king was born on 19 April 1968.
King Mswati III ascended the throne at the age of 18 after his father’s demise and he rules Swaziland with absolute political and military authority.
He changed the name of the country Swaziland to eSwatini during the double celebration of his 50th birthday and an early version of the Kingdom’s 50th independence anniversary last year.