Only A King, After All

Mswati III is not a name to cause Americans, or for that matter Europeans, to prick up their ears in recognition. He’s hardly an international figure. Nevertheless, today is his birthday and in his nation of Swaziland he’s determined to have a whopping great party.

That’s fine for King Mswati III, for a king is what he is, but hardly cause for celebration by his people, the vast majority of whom live in abject poverty. Swaziland has the highest percentage of HIV cases in the world. Over one quarter of the population is infected.

Mswati purchased twenty BMWs for his birthday, so he and his thirteen wives could arrive in style for the lavish celebrations held in his honor at the capitol, Mbabane. A large stadium had been decked out for the occasion. It is reported his wives went on a Dubai shopping trip specifically for this day.

All-in-all, according to the BBC’s Orla Guerin, the official bill is $2.5 million, though it’s rumored the actual cost may well be five times more.[1]

At first glance this could be considered nothing more than another African nation exhibiting a glaring split between the fabulously wealthy few, on the one hand, and the poverty-stricken masses, on the other. Yet, viewed from a certain perspective, Swaziland is a metaphor for the rest of the planet.

While some sections of the Swazi populace demonstrated against the king’s enormous waste of money, most just shrug their shoulders and accept it, with the comment: “He’s the king,” as though that gives him some Divine Right to shower himself in egotistical glory while squandering the nation’s treasury.

In their thousands, Americans flocked to the Republican and Democratic Conventions these last few weeks. They filled the stadiums to capacity, screamed and yelled with enthusiasm, as their leaders delivered mundane speeches composed entirely of stereotyped, hackneyed, rhetoric. Millions more watched and listened at home.

Like the people of Swaziland, they pour out their adoration in an illogical display, while beneath it all lies the realization it’s no more than a diversion. Were the 2008 conventions any different from last time? Wasn’t the 2000 election exactly similar? They cheered and screamed just as fervently then as in 2008, yet nothing changed. They went to the circus, applauded the acts, and went home chattering about what a good time had been had by all.

It poses one apparently unanswerable question: why does the human being have an inbuilt need to pour adoration onto certain members of its own species, even while acknowledging those same individuals are only concerned with amalgamating power they’ve deviously managed to acquire?

We do it all the time; in our churches, where the pastor takes our money and casts us a few prayers that never work; in employment, grovelling to the boss so he’ll fire the other fellow and we can keep our job; in our utterly incomprehensible homage to someone we name “president”, who at best may throw us a few extra pennies now and then, and at worst will order our sons and daughters to sacrifice their lives on whatever political altar best suits at the time.

Frankly, these people are not worthy of our respect or our homage. Like King Mswati III, their only concern is to ensure their own power and wealth continues to be magnified. John McCain, with so many houses he can’t remember the number; Hillary Clinton, who was able to pour millions of her own dollars into a faltering campaign; Barack Obama, who pledged to pay back all her dollars for supporting him…….

It’s time we, the people, stopped needing false shepherds who lead us straight to the wolves. It’s time we took responsibility for our lives, rather than abnegating our accountability to some politician, or employer, pastor, or God.

Jesus of Nazareth told the world that all men are equal. He was right. No-one out there, be he president or king or clergyman, is in any way better than you, or I. We are told that they ‘know more’. Believe me, when I tell you they don’t. Their only difference is in their privilege.

Next time you find yourself overawed by someone with apparent power over you, just imagine them naked, sat on the toilet with a bad attack of diarrhea. Suddenly, their power melts away down the toilet bowl.

Perhaps the people of Swaziland should spend more time contemplating King Mswati III in such a position. Maybe then they’d be more inclined to insist he curtailed his lavish lifestyle, and instead, spent some money helping his subjects.

[1] BBC, September 6th 2008 “Swaziland king celebrates in style”

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9 Replies to “Only A King, After All”

  1. We shouldn’t let these lavish celebrations hide the very real human rights abuses that are taking place in Swaziland. The King rules by decree, political parties are banned and the parliament has no powers. The King selects the Prime Minister. This week police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at marchers protesting for democracy. While the King has a wealth estimated at 200 million US dollars, seven in ten people in Swaziland live in abject poverty earning less than one US dollar a day. Six in ten people rely on international food aid and four in ten are said to be moving from hunger to starvation. Swaziland also has the highest rate of HIV infection in the world. For more information on human rights issues in Swaziland visit my blog at

  2. Swazi Media – welcome to Sparrow Chat. The human rights abuses in Swaziland are appalling, as in many parts of the world where power is grasped firmly by the hands of a few wealthy people. The Western world could do much more to bring pressure to bear, if its politicians and leaders weren’t equally bent on acquiring similar power and wealth to that of King Mswati III.

    Anan – I can’t speak for Allah, but the God of the Christians bears remarkable resemblance to humans: bad temper, a penchant for mass slaughter, a desire to inflict suffering on innocent children….in fact, the Old Testament God is a prefect blueprint of the human species.

  3. The key phrase is “It’s time we, the people, stopped needing false shepherds who lead us straight to the wolves. It’s time we took responsibility for our lives, rather than abnegating our accountability to some politician, or employer, pastor, or God.”

    Your metaphor of a ‘leader’ sitting on the toilet reminds me of LBJ who would humiliate JFK’s Harvard crew by giving them orders while taking a dump.

  4. Why can’t the king have as much fun as he likes? He can afford it. After all, Europe and USA (and all the other wealthy nations – even neighbour South Africa) ignore Swaziland’s poverty too, so who are we to criticise?

  5. I suppose that life in Swaziland, for the average inhabitant is much like life was in Britain, for the average serf, during feudal times many centuries ago. There are probably identifiable reasons why some nations moved on, and some didn’t – I don’t know what they are – maybe something to do with climate or genes of the people ?

    That doesn’t make the situation any less disgraceful, but I doubt anything that more developed countries could do would help move them on any faster. I guess nature must take its course, in everything. Perhaps their day will come, when developed countries like the USA and European nations at last destroy themselves.

  6. Al – I could never understand the need of so many to worship and glorify those who so obviously feed them lies. There’s so much insecurity wrapped in people.

    ilsm – no, you’re wrong. Mswati’s spending sprees don’t come out of his own pocket. They are the result of a plundered treasury. The money belongs to the nation.

    Twilight – I don’t think Britain looked like this in feudal times:

    Mbabane is the capital city.
    Mswati is just another Mugabe.

  7. Your good words remind me of an old quote, RJA, and damned if I can remember it exactly, but it goes something like this:

    A country elevating some of its citzens to the status of heroes is in desperate need of righting all the wrongs.

    A country without them is a happy country.

    The dividing line between poverty and wealth has never been so vast.

    time those false gods tumbled.

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