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Swaziland’s royal wives’ shopping spree angers subjects

Swaziland’s royal wives’ shopping spree angers subjects

King Mswati III of Swaziland (above, in traditional dress) is Africa’s last absolute monarch, and, not surprisingly, has a huge amount of wealth at his disposal. Using it to send his wives on multimillion dollar shopping sprees has, shockingly, not gone over well, despite the inherent dangers in criticizing the king’s life:

Reports from the kingdom said that the king had dispatched at least five of his 13 wives and dozens of retainers to France, Italy, Dubai and Taiwan on a secret tour last week, using £4 million from the state budget. In Swaziland it is a criminal offence to criticise the king’s private life. 

Both the king’s profligacy and his large number of wives have been points of controversy in the past. In April, Mswati bought 20 armored Mercedes cars for £150,000 each, and once attempted to buy a $45 million jet (more than twice the country’s health care budget). Meanwhile, the tradition of the king marrying multiple wives has been under fire in the past decade, twinned with a push for more women’s rights.

PABALLO THEKISO/AFP/Getty Images