Swaziland’s Voodoo Economics

Andrew Sullivan —  Aug 31 2012 @ 5:11pm


In Swaziland "70 percent of the country lives on less than two dollars a day, and yet the royals are wealthy enough to skew World Bank statistics, making it seem a lot less bad." Nelli Bowles locates the source of Swaziland King Mswati III's lock on power:

"The rest of the world keeps saying we should have democracy, and we agree," Vusie Majola, who runs a nonprofit, said. "But what they don't understand is that the king, he can point a stick at you and you die. We are dealing with someone whose power the world can't understand."

Despite its commitment to reform, even the burgeoning pro-democracy organizers fear Mswati's sorcery, writes Bowles:

"You know what happens," added a young man in a New York Yankees T-shirt. "The king had his inyangas sprinkle a circle of powder around the palace. You cross that line and you die." Come now, I said, you're all smart and youthful and fighting for democracy. You can't believe King Mswati is really a god. The young man in the Yankees shirt shook his head. "This is why the revolution in Swaziland will be so hard," he said. "Maybe impossible."

(Photo: King of Swaziland Mswati III (L) visits the Gem and Jewellery Exchange in the capital Colombo on August 15, 2012. The Swazi king is on a three-day visit to the island. By Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images)