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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 March, 2004, 15:54 GMT
Swazi king 'forces out speaker'
King Mswati III
Mswati III has been criticised for his lavish spending
The speaker of Swaziland's parliament says he has been forced to resign by the ruler of the drought-hit country.

No official reason has been given for the move. However King Mswati had refused to open parliament until Marwick Khumalo quit.

Mr Khumalo said that he was being "victimised for something he did 25 years ago," but did not elaborate.

He also suspected royal insiders sought to oust him because he had opposed attempts to buy the king a private jet.

Two years ago, the normally docile parliament rejected a request to buy a $45m royal jet.

After years of failed rains, a quarter of the 1.1m population need food aid. Swaziland also has one of the world's highest rates of HIV infection - 33%.

"I was called to the royal residence, and formally told that the king had instructed that I should resign," Mr Khumalo was quoted as telling a special parliamentary session late on Wednesday.

He later told the French news agency AFP: "Even now, it is feared that I will overwhelm the new parliament with my 'unpopular political influence', a notion I do not subscribe to."

Many wives

Africa's last absolute monarch is no stranger to controversy.

In January, the Times of Swaziland reported that King Mswati asked for $15m - almost as much as the 2002 health budget - to build a palace for each of his 11 wives.

He chooses a new wife each year at the annual reed dance.

In 2002, the mother of his latest bride took some of his aides to court, accusing them of abducting her daughter.

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Country profile: Swaziland
10 Jan 01  |  Country profiles

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