Thursday, August 20, 2009

Royal Rip-off

In Swaziland it is a criminal offence to criticise the king’s private life. The king enjoys a personal fortune of about £145 million. He also receives money from the national budget for his family’s upkeep. Last year this totalled £12 million — more than was set aside for education. In May he bought 20 armoured Mercedes Benz cars at a cost of £150,000 each.

Reports from the kingdom said that the king had dispatched at least five of his 13 wives and dozens of retainers to France, Italy, Dubai and Taiwan on a secret tour last week, using £4 million from the state budget.

Swaziland is home to about 1.2 million people, more than two thirds of whom live in abject poverty on less than 50 pence a day. More than a quarter of the adult population has HIV — the highest ratio in the world.

Campaigners have been accusing Whitehall of double standards. “They shout about Zimbabwe, but keep quiet about what is happening in Swaziland, even though they are one of its biggest aid donors...” Lucky Lukhele, of the Swaziland Solidarity Network , told The Times.

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