With no hint of democracy in the offing, the kingdom quietly plods along
This time last year Africa’s last absolute monarchy was in a mess. Swaziland’s government had run out of cash and, without economic and democratic reforms, no one seemed prepared to lend it any. Civil servants faced with a 10% cut in wages were going on strike, schools and universities were closing, hospitals running out of drugs. Pro-democracy protesters took to the streets. The budget deficit had soared well into double figures. King Mswati III’s corrupt and nepotistic regime wobbled.
A year later the little landlocked kingdom, almost totally surrounded by South Africa, is expecting a budget surplus. Government services are almost back to normal, the pro-democracy movement has grown weak and divided, and the protests, suppressed by the police, have almost fizzled out. The 44-year-old king, ranked by Forbes as the 15th-richest reigning monarch in the world, flanked by his dozen-odd wives (three have gone) and at least 23 children, is having a ball.
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