King Mswati III of Swaziland and his entourage (he has 13 wives) are expected to be honoured guests at the Royal Wedding, and will stay in a hotel whose rooms cost over £400 a night.
Back in Swaziland, demonstrations against the king’s autocratic rule by trade unionists and opposition activists have been broken up by police. The Kingdom of Swaziland is a landlocked largely-mountainous African state a little smaller than Wales, with a population of about a million people. A former British colony, it remains an absolute monarchy. Political parties have been banned since the suspension of the constitution in 1973. Three-quarters of the country’s population are subsistence farmers. Almost 70% live in poverty. Swaziland has the highest HIV infection-rate in the world, with more than one in four of the adult population (those aged 15-49) infected. In the past decade life-expectancy has collapsed from about 60 years of age to around 45 (Amnesty International). Opposition activists and trade union leaders face arbitrary arrest, beatings and torture by police and security forces. Some have been charged under anti-terrorism legislation. Mxolisi Mbata, treasurer of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions, died after being beaten by police. A contingent from COSATU, the South African Trade Union Congress, rallied in solidarity at the border between the two countries and helped ensure wider media coverage of the latest demonstrations.
My daughter is working in Swaziland on a community project. Project-managers told her not to attend work on the day of the recent demonstrations. She heard police sirens throughout the day. Road-blocks and checkpoints remain in place. As the Swazi king and his circle prepare to attend another extravagantly-self-regarding exercise in royal pomp and circumstance here, orphaned children in his country go without food, the TB wards are full, and poverty, inequality and preventable disease take their daily toll.
For further information, including the Founding Statement of the newly-formed Swaziland Communist Party: http://swazilandcommentary.blogspot.com/ http://swazimedia.blogspot.com Patrick Yarker, Norwich