LOBAMBA: While about 700 000 poor citizens of Eswatini are struggling to get food parcels from the government in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, children of the late King Sobhuza gathered at Nkhanini royal offices on Thursday last week to share about E10million($625,000.00) as their annual pocket money.
This amount of money can buy approximately 31 250 Covid 19 test kits or about 62 500 packs of Personal Protective Equipment(PPEs) for health care workers. The money that was shared by the senior royal family members was allegedly sourced from public coffers as per the over E411 million royal budget approved by Parliament to sustain the extravagant lifestyle of King Mswati and his family.
The royal budget further indicates that E160million will be used to for the construction and rehabilitation of royal residences, however, the annual expenditure of King Mswati suggests that he benefits more than E1billion per year from tax-payers money. Senior royal intelligence sources told this publication that a larger amount that sustained the royal family’s extravagant lifestyle is laundered through various channels including the multi-billion security budget that is not subject to scrutiny by Parliament.
But an independent investigation by this Swaziland News suggests that about 30 surviving children of the late King Sobhuza received E250,000.00 each as their annual “pocket money” totalling to E7.5 million, the money was distributed by the King’s Office.
Reached for comments ,Chief Mgwagwa Gamedze, the Chief Executive Officer(CEO) in the King’s Office said he was in meeting and asked this investigative journalist to send questions via a text message.“Kindly text, I’m in a meeting” said the King’s Office CEO, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, however, he never responded after questions were forwarded to him.
A separate investigation by this publication further uncovered that on or around May 2011, shortly after Parliament approved the royal budget, the surviving children of the late King Sobhuza benefited about E100,000.00 each, however, the grant was subsequently increased by the King as a cost of living adjustment and now it stands at E250,000.00. Government is currently at loggerheads with civil servants over the refusal by the King to approve their Cost of Living Adjustment(COLA) for almost three years now, however, the amount shared by the royal family suggests that they received 105% increase in the past nine years.
Wandile Dludlu, the Secretary General of the People’s United Democratic Movement(PUDEMO) said he was aware of the matter adding that under the current political system, King Mswati and his family will never starve or be affected by any economic crisis. “King Mswati is referred to as the ‘lion’ and the principle of the jungle is that no matter the situation, a lion and the cubs will never eat grass. We are expected to work hard as Swazis, sweat and then surrender everything to the King and the royal family with the hope that they will use those resources to take care of the Nation, they will never do that” said the PUDEMO Secretary General.
Dludlu said the millions shared by the royal family as ‘pocket money’ in the midst of the poverty crisis in the country are always kept a top secret because more corruption was taking place in the process.
It has been disclosed that apart from the annual pocket money worth millions of Dollars received by members of the royal family, senior Governors also receive incentives known as Imbasha(allowances)when presiding over matters within the various Councils. When this publication reached Lusendvo Fakudze, the Ludzidzini Palace Governor, he said he was not in a better position and promised to return the call and comment on the matter
“Can I call you back Nkhosi so I can respond, I am currently not in a right position” said the Governor.
Speaking to this publication, Emmanuel Ndlangamandla wondered what services those who received such amount of money rendered to the tax-payers as the country was in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.
“What services are we paying for as tax payers? What kind of work have they done to deserve an ex gratia payment? This country is in the midst of a huge crisis and government is struggling to finance activities meant to control this pandemic. Our economy is floundering, unemployment is unprecedented, tax collected will shrink and the very future of this country is now at stake, how can such payment be made” said the CANGO Director.
Reached for comments, Wander Mkhonza, the Secretary General of the Amalgamated Trade Union of Swaziland(ATUSWA) said it was surprising that workers are now struggling even to get food yet they wake up every morning and report for duty only for members of the royal family to receive such monies for doing absolutely nothing.
“This thing of paying royal family members for doing nothing must stop now, we cannot keep on feeding them yet workers who report for duty every morning are struggling to put food on the table” said the ATUSWA Secretary General.
Speaking to this publication, Sibongile Mazibuko, the President of the Ngwane National Liberatory Congress(NNLC) shared the same sentiments saying it was shocking that in the midst of this COVID-19, royalty was sharing such amount of money among themselves.
“Royalty is slowly losing popularity in the eyes of the people and we are disappointed to learn that at the time when people are hungry, members of the royal family are sharing millions among themselves. We have been complaining that some poor citizens were deprived access to benefit from the food distribution, eMaswati are really struggling. A true leader is tested during such difficult times and it is disappointing that royalty continues to share millions while people are starving and health care workers are without PPE” said the NNLC President.
Senior royal family member Prince Masitsela