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A king’s car

King Mswati III of Swaziland has just bought himself another car; not any old car, but a brand new Daimler-Chrysler Maybach 62, powered by a six-litre bioturbo engine, and fitted out with a television, a 21-speaker surround sound system, a heated steering wheel, champagne flutes within reach of the fully reclining seats, a refrigerator, a cordless telephone, a gold bag and a pollen and dust filter. And the cost? Almost £400,000.

And the country over which King Mswati III rules?

Swaziland, entirely surrounded by South Africa and Mozambique, one of the smallest countries in Africa with an area of 6,700 square miles, has a population of fewer than one million, of whom more than 80 percent exist on one US dollar a day, and almost 40 percent of adults have HIV/AIDS, the highest rate in the world. According to the World Food Programme, about a third of the population require, and will probably receive, emergency food assistance this year. According to the WFP (Guardian, 14 December) absolutely poverty, unemployment, HIV/AIDS and poor farming practices, “has left large numbers of households with no food stocks, or unable to provide for themselves”.

Swaziland, moreover, has been in a state of emergency since 1973, when the so-called constitutional monarchy imposed by Great Britain became absolute. However, the king is supposedly adored by his subjects, and the country is a tourist haven, mainly for affluent South Africans.

So that all right then!…

PEN