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Last Updated: Monday, 13 December, 2004, 10:10 GMT
Swazi king splashes on luxury car
King Mswati
King Mswati is one of an elite few who can afford the Maybach
Swaziland's King Mswati has bought a $500,000 (260,000) luxury car.

Reports of the absolute monarch's latest purchase contrast with accounts of suffering in Swaziland, which has the highest Aids rate in the world.

The Maybach car has a television, DVD player, 21-speaker surround-sound system, fridge, cordless telephone and sterling silver champagne flutes.

The 36-year-old king frequently hits the headlines with stories about his lavish lifestyle.

In April this year, 10,000 guests celebrated his 36th birthday at an event estimated to have cost $600,000, prompting widespread criticism from those who said the country could ill-afford to host such an event.

Swaziland's unemployment rate stands at 40% while almost 70% of the country's one-million population live on an average daily income of $1 or less.

About one third of all Swaziland's people rely on food aid for survival.

Elite group

"We feel great that the king of Swaziland has chosen our product, this shows that our product has arrived. This kind of car is the super high end of the luxury segment," DaimlerChrysler South Africa's spokesperson Fanyana Shiburi told the Times of Swaziland.

Luxurious inside and out... the Maybach has a fridge, DVD player and silver champagne flutes
"Our customers are exclusive people, the super-rich, the kings and queens, oil-rich countries, North Africans and massive lottery winners," he added.

Just three other people in Southern Africa are reported to own DaimlerChrysler's flagship Maybach 62.

"It is unfortunate the king's government is unable to prioritize and do things that will save the nation, as opposed to the interests of the monarch and his family," said Nomthetho Simelane from the University of Swaziland.

In a country where nearly 40% of adults are HIV positive, the king is also criticised for having 11 wives and two fiancees.

In recent years, he has asked parliament for $15m to build a palace for each of his spouses and $45m to buy a royal jet.

Street protests led to him abandoning the plans to buy a luxury jet.

Since this story was published, DaimlerChrysler SA settled a lawsuit with Cyril Ramaphosa confirming that he does not own a Maybach 62, as previously reported.

Aids ravages Swazi society
20 Feb 03 |  Africa
National disaster in Swaziland
19 Feb 04 |  Africa
Profile: Troubled King Mswati
04 Dec 01 |  Africa
Country profile: Swaziland
10 Nov 04 |  Country profiles

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