Saturday, September 06, 2008

(NEWZIMBABWE, REUTERS) Mugabe gets rousing welcome in Swaziland

COMMENT - Notice the familiar petty backstabbing and vilification, that is now extended to anyone who might have something positive to say about Robert Mugabe. It is time that everyone pointed out the neocolonial role the western media is playing in picking and choosing the west's enemies. You would have hoped they had learned their lesson after the disaster in Iraq, but they moved on to Iran, and Burma, and then Zimbabwe.

Mugabe gets rousing welcome in Swaziland
Last updated: Sun, 07 Sep 2008 06:07:23 GMT

ZIMBABWE President Robert Mugabe received a rousing stadium reception in the Swaziland capital Mbabane Saturday as he joined King Mswati III and other top guests for the king's lavish birthday celebrations. Mugabe, 84, was one of a dozen state and government heads attending the Somhlolo Stadium celebrations amid tight security. He raised his fist in acknowledgement of the welcome, clearly delighted.

The celebrations went ahead amid heavy criticism in southern Africa that they ignored the plight of the poor, and tight security was ordered. Some 2,000 people took to the streets Mbabane Thursday in protest at the spending on the party, and the absence of political freedom. Swaziland, a country of around 1 million people, mostly subsistence farmers, is the world's last absolute monarchy.

The '40-40' celebrations were being held to mark the 40th anniversary of Swazi independence from Britain and Mswati's 40th birthday. Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Lesotho's King Pakalitha Mosisili and US assistant secretary for African affairs, Ambassador Jendayi Frazer were among guests, as were the presidents of Madagascar, Uganda, Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique and Malawi.

Mugabe received the biggest round of applause from assembled citizens and heads of state.

The government says the party is costing 20 million emalangeni (US$12.6 million dollars), but critics estimate it is costing several times that.

The controversy comes against the backdrop of rising tensions in the normally peaceable kingdom in advance of legislative elections on September 19.

Striking workers and youths brandishing sticks and branches smashed car windows and looted shops in Mbabane Thursday in some of the worst rioting in the country in decades.

Mswati, who is famous internationally for having 13 wives, has reigned over the landlocked kingdom for 22 years.

His spending on the party, which includes 20 new BMW 7 series cars and 120 cattle, has angered many in the country where around 70 per cent of people live on less than a dollar a day and one in four adults is HIV-positive.

Nevertheless, many of Swaziland's 1.1 million people, who are mostly subsistence farmers, admire their king.

Among them are the tens of thousands of bare-breasted virgins who competed for his eye on Monday in a traditional Reed Dance, in which he chooses a new wife.

"There's no problem with the 40-40. We are only celebrating our 40 years of independence. The king should do whatever he wants to do," said Phumlile Dlamini, 18, a student.

"He's the king, he should do whatever he wants to do with the money. He is in charge of everything in the country." - dpa/Reuters

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