'Jealous Foreigners Made Us Poor': Mswati 111

Speaking in Swati at Engabezweni royal village, 30km east of Mbabane, Mswati described his critics as “timfu mona (jealous people)” who wish to see Swaziland collapse.

“What is really surprising is that some of these people are our own (Swazis) who are assisting those who want to bury the country,” Mswati said, referring to pro-democracy groups who, although banned in Swaziland, have become more vocal this year.

Mswati gives three scheduled speeches a year: on his birthday in April, a declared national holiday; at the opening of Parliament in February; and when he dismisses the traditional warrior regiments after they have completed a month of tribute labour.

Of these, only his speech to the warriors is unscripted and is believed by political observers to express Mswati’s true mood and opinions.

In an oblique reference to the International Monetary Fund, Mswati slammed economic “experts” for recommending a cut in the country’s public sector workforce.

Swaziland has Africa’s largest public service proportionate to population and GDP, and it is used for patronage jobs and to reward supporters of the monarchy.

“They shot at us with bow arrows, making all sorts of statements about the country,” Mswati told his traditional regiments.

“When they see their arrows falling short they will get discouraged and we will be victorious.”

In a response to criticism that he had overseen the economic collapse of his kingdom, Mswati blamed Swaziland’s financial crisis on the global recession.

“The past two years have been most difficult as a result of the global financial meltdown. No one anticipated this.”

The government’s financial problems would end in April when R7 billion would be awarded to Swaziland as its share of the Southern African Custom Union’s receipt pool, Mswati said.

He gave a new pair of sneakers to each of the 40 000 boys who attended the traditional function. Royal sources would not comment on whether the shoes, worth between R400 000 and R800 000, were a donation from a company or had been bought by one of the business conglomerates controlled by the royal family.

About 70 percent of Swaziland’s population live in chronic poverty, according to the UN Development Programme. Fortune magazine has put Mswati’s personal fortune at $200 million (R1.63 billion). – Independent Foreign Service