More than 1500 mostly HIV positive women marched in protest on the streets of Mbabane. The protesting women brought traffic to a standstill in the city. They marched to the offices of the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister, who were both not available to receive their memorandum.
The march, organized by Swaziland Positive Living for Life (SWAPOL) , a non-governmental organization for women with AIDS, culminated in protesters handing a petition to the country's Finance Ministry saying the money spent to send nine of King Mswati III's 13 wives to Europe and the Middle East for shopping could have been better used on the home front, the BBC reported Thursday.
"While the country is affected by a number of socio-economic challenges, we find it inappropriate for government to finance some activities that are neither national priority nor interest such as the trip that has been undertaken by the Emakhosikati to His Majesty the King, children, aides, bodyguards and their maids…We are demanding that the minister (of finance) show us the budgetary line for covering the costs of the Emakhosikati’s trip," states the petition.
The Cape Town News reports dressed in red, white, blue and orange T-shirts, the demonstrators marched across the capital, yesterday carrying placards with slogans such as: "we want multi-party democracy now", "enough is enough" and "tax payers' money does not belong to royalty".
"With this march, we want to drive home the point that we people who are living with HIV/Aids are not happy about the way our money is being used," said Siphiwe Hlophe, spokeswoman for two NGOs working with HIV positive women - the Women's Coalition of Swaziland and Swaziland Positive Living.
They questioned how money could be spent on a shopping trip when Swaziland faced shortages of medicines including anti-retrovirals.
SWAPOL Director Siphiwe Hlophe proclaimed, "Right now, we have HIV patients who can’t afford to take their medication because they can’t afford food. WFP (World Food Programme) and other donor agencies can’t keep up with the demand for food,"
According to the Times of Swazilan, she then informed the recipients of the petition that they had 24 hours to respond to the concerns failing, which the matter would be taken further. Hlophe said the SWAPOL executive would today be "fetching" the response from both offices.
The following is from Monsters and Critics.
King Mswati's wife protest
Women's rights activists in Swaziland have staged a protest over the royal family's lavish spending.
The march was staged to demonstrate against a shopping trip taken by nine of King Mswati III's 13 wives last week, after they chartered a plane to go to Europe and the Middle East.
The protesters reportedly handed a petition in to the finance ministry, arguing that the money could have been better spent.
They claimed: "We can't afford a shopping trip when a quarter of the nation lives on food aid."
However, royal family sources claimed the extravagant trip was necessary as the wives needed to prepare for the '40-40' celebrations next month, which will mark both the 40th anniversary of independence from Britain and the 40th birthday of King Mswati.
A source is quoted by Britain's The Daily Telegraph as saying: "The queens have to look radiant and that is why they have to go and buy quality for the big day. They were being spoiled."
However, Women's Coalition of Swaziland spokesperson Ntombi Nkosi said: "Those given the money do not even contribute a cent to the money they are looting."
Siphiwe Hlophe, of Swaziland Positive Living, a co-organiser of the march, added: "We are against the idea of public funds being used in a questionable way by people who are not employed and do not bring any revenue to the country's coffers."
Earlier this week Jim Gama, the governor of the Swazi royal capital Ludzidzini, condemned the march as "un-Swazi".
He said: "I have never heard of women marching. All I know is that a woman has to seek permission from her husband to register her disagreement with whatever was happening in society but not for her to march. That is un-Swazi."
Swaziland - Africa's last absolute monarchy - is one of the poorest countries in the world, having been in a state of emergency since 1973, and more than 40% of the population is believed to be infected with HIV.