The nephew of King Mswati III of Swaziland has denied the monarch’s new multimillion dollar luxury private jet was bought with taxpayer funds, insisting it was a gift from Kuwait.
Prince Omari Dlamini said the McDonnell Douglas DC-9 twin-engine aircraft worth ZAR360m (US$46m) was bestowed upon the absolute monarch by friends from the Gulf state, South African media has reported.
"His Majesty did not buy the jet...” Dlamini was quoted as saying. “[It] was a gift from Kuwait."
Labour movements and banned opposition parties in the poverty-stricken country are furious about the jet, which they believe was paid for with taxpayers’ money.
The aircraft, which arrived in the country on Tuesday, is to be used by the ruler and his 13 wives.
The South Africa-based Swaziland Solidarity Network (SNN) said the timing of the buy was particularly bad, given that Swaziland was in the middle of its worst economic crisis ever.
According to the figures, seven out of every ten of Mswati's 1.1m citizens are living below the international poverty line of US$1 a day, while Mswati is ranked as the world's 15th-richest monarch by Forbes.
Mswati is thought to have close ties to countries such as Qatar and Kuwait - rumoured to have provided financial support for a ZAR300m international airport outside the capital.
Mswati, leader of Swaziland since 1986, celebrated his 44th birthday last week with a ZAR3m party, in part paid for by the state.