Call for sanctions against royal family

Swaziland's pro-democracy organisations have called on the international community to apply smart sanctions against the royal family, following reports that King Mswati III has bought himself a car worth almost US $500,000.

The car features a TV receiver, DVD player, 21-speaker surround sound system, refrigerator, telephone, heated steering wheel, interior pollen and dust filter, golf bag and silver champagne flutes.

"We are calling for strategic sanctions against the royal family, such as no invitations to any major events, travel restrictions to be imposed on them by Europe and, particularly, South Africa," said Gabriel Mkhumane, spokesperson for the opposition People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO).

He said it was unacceptable for the monarch of a country with 70 percent of the population living below the poverty line to spend so much on a vehicle. Mkhumane alleged that Swazis were disappointed when the king was invited to attend the South African government's inauguration earlier this year, as it seemed to be a signal of approval and endorsement.

Elliot Mkhatshwa, president of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions, said his organisation supported the call for sanctions against the royal family: "Enough is enough - people are starving in this country!"

Swaziland is facing its fourth consecutive year of drought, and nearly 40 percent of adult Swazis are living with HIV, according to UNAIDS.

King Mswati, sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch, has insisted on his right to rule by decree, even though the country's highest court, the Court of Appeal, has ruled against his claim.