|Mswati III in 2012: credits to telegraph.co.uk|
However, His Majesty Mswati III is very controversial. Forbes magazine ranked him as one of the world's richest monarchs several years ago. Each of his wives has her own palace. Every year, a lavish celebration is hosted by a region of Swaziland for His Majesty's birthday. Cows are slaughtered for a mass feast and there is traditional music and dancing. In 2008 the party was a celebration of two milestones: His Majesty's 40th birthday and the 40th anniversary of Swaziland's independence. The only year the party was cancelled was 2011, when Swaziland was suffering from an economic crisis.
Mswati III's subjects are poor. Two-thirds of Swazi people make less than the equivalent of $1 a day. Swaziland has the highest HIV rate in the world. Unemployment is high and life expectancy is low. Many believe that it is inconsiderate for His Majesty to celebrate his birthday with such an expensive party while so many of his people suffer. A new stadium built for His Majesty's 40th birthday celebration sparked protests.
His Majesty's most recent birthday celebration was especially controversial. It took place in the Shiselweni region, the second poorest region in Swaziland. Mswati III ordered the region's chiefs to provide cattle for his birthday celebration. Swazi citizens were asked to contribute to funding the celebration. The banned opposition group People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) urged His Majesty to cancel his 44th birthday celebration. The country was still recovering from the economic crisis and many people could hardly afford to feed themselves, let alone fund the King's extravagant feast.
Mswati III received a private luxury jet complete with a lounge, a telephone, WiFi, and Blu-Ray for his 44th birthday. Swaziland's government's spokesman stated that the jet was a gift from "development partners and friends of the King" who preferred to remain anonymous, according to allafrica.com. PUDEMO has doubts that any development agency would be able to afford such a purchase and believes that no development agency would wish to remain anonymous. The banned opposition group fears that taxpayer money may have been used to purchase the jet. Another group, the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa, believes that the King had already owned the jet for some time before his birthday.
Birthday shoutouts to Maddy