Feature

Swaziland’s serious shopping spree

The king chooses jet-setting wives over HIV drugs, and people notice.

What happened
Hundreds of women in Swaziland, Africa’s last absolute monarchy, protested a recent shopping trip that at least eight of King Mswati III’s 13 wives took in the Middle East and Europe. The trip, on a chartered jet, also included the queens’ kids and entourage. The unusual protest march was organized by two non-governmental organizations that work with HIV-positive women. (The Daily Telegraph)

What the commentators said
The protesters may be aggrieved, said Mbongiseni Nhleko in the Times of of Swaziland, but the government thinks it's “wrong, uncultural, and completely unacceptable for women to march.” The government also seems confused as to why women would protest a “national trip” that will “benefit the country” by preparing the wives for next month’s dual celebration of the king’s and the country’s 40th birthdays.

“All Swazi who love democracy” should “wear black until the 40/40 celebrations are over,” said Richard Rooney in the blog Swazi Media Commentary. And if the government thinks it’s unacceptable for the women to march, it should read its 2005 constitution, which “allows for freedom of assembly (i.e. freedom to march) and gender equity.”

What good is a constitution under the “autocratic rule” of a “pillaging” absolute monarch? said Sentletse Diakanyo in South Africa’s Mail & Guardian. King Mswati’s reign has been “a tragic affair” that has left his subjects with “an ignoble and pitiful existence.” He should watch out. That’s how you prepare “a fertile soil from which a revolution could blossom.”

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