SWAZILAND, AFRICA – King Mswati III has often come in for criticism for expanding his fleet of luxury cars as his people starve. Now sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch has decided to put an end to the bad publicity by banning photographers from taking pictures of his limousines.
King Mswati stirred up a storm in December when he bought a $500,000 DaimlerChrysler Maybach 62 – one of the most expensive cars in the world. In mid-February it was revealed that he had bought a new BMW for each of his 10 wives.
The crackdown on photographing his fleet came after the king arrived for the opening of parliament in a new stretch Mercedes S600 limousine, said to be worth even more than the Maybach. Mswati is the first person in Africa to own the new Mercedes S-Class Pullman, a six-door limousine. Earlier versions of the Mercedes Pullman limousines were specially commissioned in 1969 and 1971 by Hugh Hefner of Playboy magazine.
As photographers swarmed to get a photo of the new royal car they were quickly blocked by security guards, the Times of Swaziland reported. "You may not take pictures of the king when he alights from his car," a written royal decree said.
The 36-year-old king has run into flak for extravagant spending despite the fact that his tiny, impoverished kingdom suffers frequent food shortages and one of the world’s highest AIDS infection rates.
King Mswati III bought the car at a time when more than 65 percent of Swaziland's 1.2-million inhabitants live below poverty level. Some 550,000 people among Swaziland’s 1.2 million population are HIV-positive and doomed to die from AIDS-related illnesses.