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Casshew
01-12-2004, 03:59 PM
King Seeks Funds for Palaces for 11 Wives

MBABANE (Reuters) - Swaziland's King Mswati has asked his government for funds to help redecorate three main palaces and build others for each of his 11 wives, a royal palace source said Sunday.

The Times of Swaziland reported that Mswati -- sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch -- was seeking about $15 million in a country where landless peasants make up 80 percent of the population.

The money would have to be raised specially in the small southern African kingdom because the government did not have the funds at present, the paper said.

Swaziland, struggling with a devastating drought and a crippling HIV /AIDS epidemic, has an economy that has been in decline for 10 years. GDP growth in 2003/04 is expected to be 1.6 percent, about half the rate two years ago.

"It is true that we will rehabilitate the palace of his majesty and his wives," the palace source told Reuters.

"The king's office has put in a request to parliament and to cabinet for approval," said the source, without giving a figure.

Two months ago, Mswati hand-picked 17 family members and loyalists to fill cabinet posts. The cabinet is headed by Themba Dlamini, chief executive of the royal conglomerate Tibiyo TakaNgwane.

The chairman of the National Disaster Relief Task Force, Ben Nsibandze, said the drought was the worst in recorded history in Swaziland.

The U.N. World Food Program (WFP) says harvests will be down for a fifth successive year.

At least a quarter of Swaziland's population of 1.1 million will depend on food aid from the WFP and other sources by the end of January.

Last year, $1.5 million was spent on luxury cars and homes for Mswati's elder relatives. Swazi taxpayers lost $45 million on a down payment for a luxury jet for Mswati's personal use when the deal fell through.

Story from Yahoo News (http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=573&ncid=573&e=3&u=/nm/20040112/od_nm/swaziland_king_dc)