22 Aug 2008

Swazi anger at shopping trip by royal wives

4:00 pm on 22 August 2008

Hundreds of Swazi women have marched through the streets to protest about a shopping trip taken by nine of the king's 13 wives.

They chartered a plane last week to go to Europe and the Middle East.

The BBC reports the protesters delivered a petition to the Swaziland finance ministry saying the money could have been better spent.

"We can't afford a shopping trip when a quarter of the nation lives on food aid," they chanted.

"We need to keep that money for ARVs [anti-retrovirals]" was another slogan.

Swaziland, Africa's last absolute monarchy, is one of the poorest countries in the world and more than 40% of the population is believed to be infected with HIV.

The march was organised by Positive Living, a non-governmental organisation for women with Aids.

King Mswati III, 40, has been criticised in the past for requesting public money to pay for new palaces, a personal jet and luxury cars.