The freely spending Kingdom of eSwatini is at it again.
This time, Queen Mother Ntfombi Tfwala presented her son, King Mswati III, with a dining room suite “made of gold and decorated with precious stones sourced from the sea”, according to palace sources.
The lavish present was accompanied by other gifts, including a herd of 344 cattle and 15 million Swazi lilangeni (R15m in cash. These were bestowed on the king ahead of the country’s golden jubilee celebrations in April.
Mswati said he would be pleased if other donors could raise about 100 million lilangeni to show that the country’s economy was strong.
In his speech, Mswati said he was grateful that the gifts had proved beyond any doubt that the country’s economy was “doing well”, and it proved to the doubting Thomases that the country was not crumbling.
“I am very happy that emaSwati have proved that their businesses are thriving and I look forward to more presents to the tune of 100 million lilangeni so that the world can see that the country’s economy is on the crest of a wave,” he told a packed banquet hall on Monday night at Lozitha Royal Palace, which is situated between Mbabane and Manzini.
King Mswati’s children presented him with a holiday in a country of his choice. His children were represented by his eldest child, Princess Sikhanyiso. During her speech, she told her father to “soar above the storms”. She also presented him with a portrait of an eagle.
Other gifts included a cordless flatscreen television from Robert Kasaro, a charismatic pastor who married King Mswati’s sister, Princess Lindiwe.
The Queen Mother said the dining room chairs were fit for a person who had reached the age of 50, and said her wish was for God to multiply his years.
Other donors included Taiwan, which contributed 15 million lilangeni towards the festivities.
Security personnel, including soldiers and police officers, were ordered to contribute about 100 lilangeni per person, depending on their ranks. Senior government officials such as judges contributed 2 000 lilangeni each, while some contributed indigenous chickens and guinea fowl.
MTN Swaziland was one of the largest contributors – it contributed 1.1 million lilangeni. Swaziland’s Public Service Pension Fund donated 1 million lilangeni, the Swaziland Electricity Company donated more than 500 000 lilangeni and publishing company Macmillan Swaziland donated 394 000 lilangeni.
No donation was too small, with another pastor, Moses Warren, donating 1 000 lilangeni and a 10kg bag of rice.
The king was also presented with 100 traditional costumes known as tindlamu. The skirts are made of beads and are normally worn by bare-breasted maidens when they are summoned to cut reeds along river banks in central Swaziland, which are then used to construct a windbreak at the country’s spiritual capital of Ludzidzini.
Cabinet ministers presented Mswati with sofas believed to have been imported from north Africa.
Swaziland is still coming to terms with the purchase of the king’s new Airbus A340-300 private jet, which left the country’s coffers with a 3 billion lilangeni dent. It was refurbished with extras including a bedroom and a lounge.
Mswati left the kingdom on his jet at dawn on Wednesday after receiving his gifts. He went to Taiwan with a high-powered delegation of counsellors and his children.
Meanwhile, City Press has learnt that the royal family’s security personnel have been ordered to pay a fine of 29 head of cattle after pictures of the new royal jet and photos of the vigil for Mswati’s wife, Inkhosikati Senteni Masango, who committed suicide, were leaked on social media.
The security guards have also been ordered to deposit their cellphones in a container when arriving at work so that they do not take pictures. Another punishment was a new order that they may not sit down at all during their shifts, which can last for longer than eight hours.
The fine has to be delivered to the king by June 25.
The royal family is guarded by officers from His Majesty’s Correctional Services, Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force and the eSwatini Royal Police.
Meanwhile, the country is in the grips of a cash crisis. Public servants have not been given salary increases for the past two years, and nurses and doctors have been locked in a series of meetings about their poor working conditions.
Primary school pupils in major public schools have gone hungry after the government failed to deliver food for feeding programmes, and some pupils in southern Swaziland reportedly fainted from hunger. The school feeding scheme was introduced after enrolment and performance was found to be poor because of the severe drought, as well as the increase in child-headed homes as a result of HIV/Aids.
On Wednesday, Swazi Finance Minister Martin Dlamini told the House of Assembly that government was experiencing cash flow problems.