The Swaziland Vigil with the help of the Zimbabwe Vigil had a busy week protesting against King Mswati’s visit to the UK for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. We were disappointed that the Queen should invite Africa’s last absolute monarch to what we would regard otherwise as a joyful celebration.
The protests against Mswati culminated after the regular Zimbabwe Vigil today when we processed from the Zimbabwe Embassy to the Savoy Hotel about 200 yards down the Strand to greet Mswati’s guests as they arrived for a dinner he was hosting. About 30 of us gathered with our drums and posters (‘King Mswati buys £30m plane while his people eat cow dung’, ‘Mswati and his 30 strong entourage stay in £400 a night Savoy Hotel while his people starve’, ‘End human rights abuses in Swaziland’, ‘Mswati must go NOW!’ and ‘Democracy now for Swaziland’). As Mswati’s guests went in we heckled them with cries of ‘Shame on you, Shame on you’. Protesters also shouted ‘women abuser’ and ‘save the young girls of Swaziland’. We were not surprised by the news from South Africa that one of the king’s 13 wives has spent the past month in the Presidential Suite of the Westcliff Hotel in Johannesburg costing $2,000 a night (see: http://africajournalismtheworld.com/tag/swazi-queen-runs-up-huge-hotel-bill/).
It was a long day for the Swaziland Vigil which had gathered for their regular demonstration outside the Swaziland High Commission at 10 am today before presenting a petition to 10 Downing Street at 1 pm protesting about the human rights abuses in Swaziland. For the letter to the British Prime Minister that accompanied the petition (see: http://www.zimvigil.co.uk/vigil-news/campaign-news/401-swazi-letter-to-the-british-prime-minister).
On Friday night activists from both the Swaziland and the Zimbabwe vigils joined the human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell in a protest outside Buckingham Palace (see; http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-18099937 - Diamond Jubilee: World royals gather in UK for Queen).
King Mswati must have been left with little doubt about what the Swazis and Zimbabweans in the UK thought of him after we greeted him when he arrived at the Savoy Hotel on Wednesday (see report below). The efforts that we and others have made resulted in totally negative media coverage for him in newspapers, television and radio. As the Times reported ‘Swaziland’s King Mswati III is said to enjoy a lavish lifestyle while his subjects starve’.
The success of the demonstrations was largely down to the hard work of three members of the Swaziland Vigil: Flora Dlamini, Margaret Dlamini (who came to the protest on Wednesday straight after dialysis) and Jabulile Simelane and Zimbabwe Vigil management team member Fungayi Mabhunu.
Prptest against King Mswati of Swaziland – 16th May 2012
Protestors demonstrated outside a leading London hotel against the visit of King Mswati III of Swaziland – Africa’s last absolute ruler – who is in the UK to attend a diamond jubilee banquet for the world’s monarchs hosted by the Queen at Windsor Castle on Friday 18th May.
The protest was organised by the Swaziland Vigil which stages regular demonstrations outside the Swaziland High Commission in London in protest at the king’s autocratic rule. They were supported by the Zimbabwe Vigil which protests against Mugabe and by Action for Southern Africa (the successor organisation to the Anti-Apartheid Movement) along with members of British trade unions.
Amid drumming, singing and chants of ‘Mswati must go’ the demonstrators outside the Savoy hotel in the Strand carried banners reading: ‘King Mswati buys £30m plane while his people eat cow dung’, ‘Mswati and his 30 strong entourage stay in £400 a night Savoy Hotel while his people starve’, ‘End human rights abuses in Swaziland’, and ‘Democracy now for Swaziland’.
A spokesperson for the Swaziland Vigil Flora Dlamini said the Swazi people were demanding democracy and an end to the feudal regime under which no political parties were allowed and freedom of expression was curtailed.
‘We have one of the richest kings in the world and yet we live in poverty. People are starving but he is here with more than 30 people in one of the most expensive hotels in London.
King Mswati (44) who has married 13 women was said, by two young women who came out of the Savoy, to be flirting with them asking about the best night clubs and shopping in the area.
A BBC photographer passed by and took photos. He has posted this on twitter: ‘What the King of Swaziland might see if he looks out of his window at the Savoy Hotel in London’ (#royal http://pic.twitter.com/bNEcIcm6). He has also posted a sound bite on the following link: http://audioboo.fm/boos/804353-demo-against-swaziland-s-king-mswati-iii-outside-savoy.
Thanks to Fungayi Mabhunu, Flora Dlamini, Margaret Dlamini, Mary Muteyerwa, Georgina Makaza, Bernard Hukwa, Ellen Gonyora, Kelvin Kamupira, Ndana Sanyanga, Edward Mutamiswa, Tim Rusike and Rose Benton who attended the protest.
Swazis in London protest at visit by playboy king Mswati III
Exiled Swazis living in the UK are to protest outside the Savoy Hotel in London on Wednesday 16th May when their king Mswati III is due to arrive to attend a diamond jubilee banquet for the world’s monarchs hosted by the Queen at Windsor Castle on Friday 18th May.
The protest is organised by the Swaziland Vigil which stages regular demonstrations outside the Swaziland High Commission in London in protest at the king’s autocratic rule. He is Africa’s last absolute monarch and has, at the last count, 13 wives – although there are reports that some of them have fled. Forty-four year old Mswati III, educated at Sherborne public school in Dorset, is said by Forbes magazine to have a fortune of more than $100 million while his people live in poverty.
The co-ordinator of the Swazi Vigil Thobile Gwebu said people in Swaziland had been reduced to eating cow dung so that they could fill their bellies as required for the AIDs medicines provided by NGOs. She said the king had recently taken delivery of a DC-9 twin-engine aircraft claiming it was a gift from ‘anonymous sponsors’.
Ms Gwebu said she understood the king was travelling with the entourage of 30, staying at the Savoy where room prices start at £400 a night.
She said Swazis in the UK didn’t want to spoil the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations and had written to her explaining that, as Queen of the Commonwealth, perhaps she could have a word with Mswati so that they could return home to a country where human rights were respected. For text of the letter see: http://www.zimvigil.co.uk/vigil-news/campaign-news/397-swaziland-vigil-letter-to-the-queen.
The Swaziland Vigil is also planning to picket the Swaziland High Commission on Saturday 19th May when king Mswati is due to hold a dinner.
Date: Wednesday 16th May from 12 noon – 3 pm
Venue: Savoy Hotel, Strand, London WC2R 0EU
19th May 2012
Dear Mr Cameron
On the occasion of the visit to the UK by King Mswati III, we respectfully submit the following petition: “Petition to the British Government: Exiled Swazis and supporters urge you to put pressure on absolute monarch King Mswati III to allow political freedom, freedom of the press, rule of law, respect for women and affordable AIDs drugs in Swaziland.”
The petition has been signed by people passing the Swaziland Vigil which holds regular demonstrations outside the Swaziland High Commission in London in protest at the human rights abuses in Swaziland.
For your information we have sent the following letter to the Queen, who invited Mswati to a lunch at Windsor Castle on 18th May to mark her Diamond Jubilee.
"Letter to the Queen - 9th May 2012
An Appeal to the Mother of Monarchs
We wish to record our disquiet at the visit to the UK by our King Mswati III on the occasion of your Jubilee. We are a group of Swazis driven into exile because of the arbitrary behaviour of King Mswati, the last absolute ruler in Africa. He lives like a medieval monarch while his people suffer. He now has his own £30 million aircraft while some women with HIV are reduced to eating cow dung because they have to have something in their stomachs for the medicine they must take. King Mswati has banned all political activities so we are left without a voice at home. We stage a regular protest outside the Swaziland High Commission just down the road from Buckingham Palace.
We realise that your hands are tied by protocol and wish to assure you that the protests we plan against King Mswati during his visit to London do not indicate any disrespect to you. But we would humbly ask you, as the Mother of the Commonwealth, to have a word with King Mswati so that we can return home in freedom to a democratic country observing international human rights. We are sad his education in England seems to have made him think his people are slaves."