…Swazis have enjoyed decades of peace and are proud of their culture. But poverty has entrapped two-thirds of the people, leaving hundreds of thousands malnourished. And these days death casually sweeps away even the strong. The country has one of the worst rates of H.I.V. infection in the world. Life expectancy has fallen from 60 years in 1997 to barely half that now. Nearly a third of all children have lost a parent.
“How can the king live in luxury while his people suffer?” asked Siphiwe Hlophe, a human rights activist. “How much money does he need, anyway?”
That question was as confounding as it was impertinent. In the government’s latest budget, about $30 million was set aside for “royal emoluments.”
Now it is the New York Times, but even so, the Queen of England manages to get by on £40 million or roughly $72 million dollars.
Now that’s more than twice what Swaziland’s King gets, but the Monarchy costs Britons only 0.003% of their nation’s $2.137 trillion gross domestic product.
However, the King’s emoluments are 0.5% of Swaziland’s $5.63 billion GDP. Swazis are comparatively getting hosed, paying 167 times as much as a percentage of GDP. So it’s not surprising that they’re angry:
The rowdiest of the demonstrators flung rocks, looted goods from sidewalk vendors and even set off a few small explosions. Others made impromptu placards with torn up cardboard. “Down with 40-40!” read one, while another demanded, “Democracy now!” A few protesters chanted things meant to make rich people feel guilty: “My mother was a kitchen girl. My father was a garden boy. That’s why I’m a Socialist.”
The angriest of them went so far as to insist that the nation had little to celebrate.
It’s a useful reminder that not every king is a Saint Louis.