Lobamba: Africa’s only remaining monarch His Majesty King Mswati III and the Royal Family is directly benefiting from a whooping over 500 million SZL (US$33.3 million) which has been set aside from the current financial year budget presented by Minister Neal Rijkenberg in February.
According to Estimates of Recurrent Expenditure, Head 01 of Statutory Expenditure as published in the website of the Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini, the Royal Family will get in total 411 million SZL, in what is referred to as Royal Emoluments. Emoluments are granted to certain members of the Royal Family by special legislation. An emolument can be granted to the presumptive heir to the throne, the King or Queen who has abdicated, the surviving spouse of the King or Queen, the surviving spouse of the King or Queen who has abdicated and the surviving spouse of the presumptive heir to the throne.
In some countries the members of the Royal Family who receive an emolument submit an annual report to the Prime Minister on their activities in the public interest during the previous year. The Prime Minister hands this report over to both Houses of Parliament for scrutiny. However, in Eswatini the royal budget is neither debated by the local Parliament nor scrutinized by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
The Royal Family will also benefit from a further allocation of 160 million SZL from local funds for the rehabilitation, construction and maintenance of state houses. These include the King’s palaces and other royal residences.
The budget estimates of the Kingdom of Eswatini Royal Family took effect from April 1 this year and will end in March 31, 2023, during which period there won’t be an increase.
With rising criticism from the public sector, former government spokesman Percy Simelane once told Anadolu Agency that the King, like all other Heads of State did not make his own budget, and directing criticism to him would be naive.
“It is the government that does budgets. And, the king is not involved. It is unfair to criticize his Majesty for the increased budget,” once said Simelane. He said people should always remember the good deeds performed by His Majesty like fostering national projects such as the Free Primary Education (FPE), feeding schemes for schools, elderly grants and other projects. Lately, the King cancelled this month’s celebrations to mark his 52nd birthday and ordered the event’s budget to be redirected to fighting the deadly coronavirus in the country. Eswatini is one of Africa’s countries that have reported no deaths due to Covid-19.
An allocation of 411 million SZL was also set aside as subvention to the King’s Office, and according to the estimates, this amount is estimated not to increase for 2021/22 and 2022/2023.
Notably, the money set aside to benefit the Royal family overshadows what government has budgeted to implement the Cost of Living Adjustment. The money from that will benefit the royal family almost double of what civil servants had been promised. Minister Neal Rijkenberg said 27 million SZL was budgeted for the implantation of CoLa.
Recently, Minister of Public Service Christian Ntshangase tabled an annual report which reflected the said 227 million SZL for CoLa, an amount deemed too little by members of Parliament. Phondo Member of Parliament, Xolani Vilane moved that it should be increased to at least 500 million SZL.
On Wednesday, the Public Sector Association (PSAs) demanded that government review their salaries by 7.23 per cent. The PSAs are: Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT), National Public Service and Allied Workers Union (NAPSAWU) and Swaziland National Association of Government Accounting Personnel (SNAGAP).
According to SNAT Secretary General, Sikelela Dlamini as quoted by the Times of Eswatini, they exchanged their position papers on the 2019/20 CoLa and also engaged on the position that was last presented by government on allowances.
Dlamini told Independent News that the ministry of public service’s setting aside of the 227 million SZL for CoLa is insignificant, seeing that increments run side by side with taxation. And, said Dlamini, with every CoLa there is rousing of markets who think government workers have money and thus increase product prices, and with what little government has given for CoLa it’s to be seen how the lives of civil servants will be adjusted. The SNAT General Secretary told Independent News that government has changed nothing by setting aside the 227 million SZL for CoLa and as PASs they still have an issue with government regarding backdates where they seek compensation.
Another critical item which its budget is a far cry from what was allocated to the Royal Family was Anti Retro Viral (ARVs). Minister Rijkenberg announced that 274 million SZL was budgeted for the purchase of ARVs. About 177 million SZL was allocated to the Regional Development Fund despite an outcry by MPs that such was meagre. Minister Rijkenberg mentioned in his speech that the RDFs’ allocation would improve the quality of life and economic well-being of Emaswati, which remained a priority for this government. He wished for equitable development for the different Tinkhundla.
On a positive note, government has increased the elderly grants from 400 SZL to 500 SZL per month. In addition, the monthly grant for the disabled was increased from 180 SZL to 280 SZL per month with effect from January 2020.