eSwatini King not obliged to disclose his business interests, says minister

Speaking to Eyewitness News, Finance Minister Neal Rijkenberg has denied that the businesses that were targeted by pro-democracy protestors are linked to the king and other members of the royal family.

FILE: King Mswati III of eSwatini. Picture: Abigail Javier/Eyewitness News.

JOHANNESBURG - eSwatini Finance Minister Neal Rijkenberg said King Mswati III had a 10% stake in telecommunications giant MTN eSwatini but had no obligation to disclose his business interests.

This shareholding is one of the grievances of protestors who want the king to relinquish power accusing him of amassing wealth for his family while ordinary citizens live in poverty.

Speaking to Eyewitness News on Wednesday, Rijkenberg denied that the businesses that were targeted by pro-democracy protestors are linked to the king and other members of the royal family. He also insists there is democracy in eSwatini and people are not being locked up for speaking out.

“When MTN opened up in eSwatini, there’s 10% shareholding that also went to His Majesty. So from that point of view that all those interests,” he said.

But the king’s business interests is one of the grievances of the pro-democracy protesters in eSwatini, that the king and members of the royal family acquire stakes in lucrative businesses for their private wealth.

But Rijkenberg said the king was not obliged to tell anyone how wealthy he was.

“It's not for anyone to report to. For me to say to you declare your interests, you know, it's your information not necessarily someone else's,” he said in defense of the monarch.

And he insisted that there is democracy in the kingdom.

“People elect members of Parliament to Parliament in this country and any change needs Parliament's approval. We've got a constitution that says that if there's any constitutional change that needs to take place, it has to happen through Parliament,” Rijkenberg said.

He also denied that activists are locked up: “Because we hear those rumors too about people being locked up for having the for having the voices being heard. Please bring us something that we can give you the response. There are people locked up, but it's often an act of crime that people are locked up for.”

The kingdom has confirmed that 27 people were killed during the protests, but said not all of them were shot by the army and the police.

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