Just months after the Swaziland Government said it could not afford to buy life-saving drugs to prevent Swazi children dying from diarrhoea, it has spent US$1.7 million on top of the range BMW cars for itself.
At least 40 children have died and hundreds have been hospitalised in a diarrhoea outbreak in which more than 3,000 cases have been recorded. About 680,000 doses of life-saving rotavirus vaccine could be purchased for the cost of the BMW cars, which would be enough to treat every child in the kingdom.
It was revealed at a media conference on Monday (22 September 2014) that the Swazi Government has bought 20 new BMW X5 sports utility vehicles which are to be used by government ministers and top officials.
The purchase is just another example of irresponsible spending in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III, who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.
In March 2014, US$600,000 was spent on the opening ceremony for the Sikhuphe Airport which was renamed King Mswati III Airport. No commercial flights have ever flown in or out of the airport. It has been widely criticised outside of Swaziland as a vanity project for the King.
Earlier this year, the Swazi Minister of Health Sibongile Ndlela-Simelane told the Swazi Observer newspaper that distributing the vaccine was not the top priority.
The newspaper reported, ‘The minister said the rotavirus, vaccine was expensive; therefore rolling out the immunisation programme cannot not be done overnight since “it is a process and a strong budget is needed”.’
In August 2014, Swazi Media Commentary revealed that if money were diverted from the Airport opening ceremony the Swazi Government could afford to save the lives of the kingdom’s dying children.
According to the website of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, a 10-pack of one dose vials of rotavirus vaccine costs US63.96 at commercial rates. That means US$600,000 could buy 93,750 doses of vaccine. However, a World Health Organization Bulletin stated that GlaxoSmithKline has offered to provide its vaccine at US$2.50 per dose.
At that price 680,000 doses could be purchased for the cost of the BMW cars. Typically, a child would need two doses for protection against diarrhoea.
SWAZI KING PARTIES WHILE CHILDREN DIE