King Mswati III of Swaziland taunted the West and his domestic political opponents saying their dreams of a popular uprising in Africa’s last absolute monarchy would not be realised.
“Some from the Western world have been waiting patiently and nursing hopes that the people of Swaziland will revolt and bring about regime change,” the polygamous, UK-educated monarch told a rare public meeting in the impoverished southern African nation.
“Swazis are known the world over for being peace-loving and I would like to urge you to remain like that,” he told the crowd of 500 elders assembled to chart a route out of a severe economic slump, Reuters reports.
Mswati, who has at least a dozen wives and a personal fortune estimated at $200 million, faced unprecedented protests 18 months ago when his appointed administration ran out of money after a 2009 recession in neighbouring South Africa.
The cash crunch, caused by a collapse in regional customs receipts that normally accounted for 60 percent of state revenues, emboldened his pro-democracy opponents, who also took heart from uprisings against autocratic rulers in North Africa and the Middle East.
The government managed to keep itself afloat by running a Greece-scale budget deficit, eating into central bank reserves and raiding the state workers’ pension fund until customs receipts picked up this year.
Despite the straitened times in the nation of 1.5 million, which has the world’s most acute HIV/AIDS burden, the royal household has shown few signs of wanting to tighten its belt.
Last month, South Africa’s Mail and Guardian newspaper reported that three of Mswati’s wives joined a 66-strong royal entourage heading to Las Vegas on a shopping spree. There has been no comment from Mswati’s side.