Swaziland's King Mswati III. File picture: Siphiwe Sibeko

Durban - Not willing to have his birthday upstaged by the weekend observations of Easter, King Mswati III has decreed that the celebration of his 46th birthday will be postponed five days so a proper national holiday in his honour can be held.

“All chiefs, royal households and the nation are expected to begin strategic planning meetings for the success of this milestone national event,” read a Swazi government statement issued on Tuesday.

The king’s birthday will be celebrated on April 24.

At the start of his rule in 1986, Mswati declared that his birthday be celebrated as a national holiday. All government departments, schools and businesses must close for the day.

This year his April 19 birthday falls on Saturday, which would normally require either Friday or Monday to become the official day of tribute.

However, this weekend is already framed by two holidays, Good Friday and Easter Monday.

“This king is jealous of all the attention Jesus Christ is getting on his birthday,” remarked Amos Shongwe, a pro-democracy advocate in Mbabane.

Mswati chose next week Thursday as his official birthday, even though the following day is another national holiday, Flag Day.

“Two long four-day weekends in a row is very costly to businesses. But who can tell the king anything?” said a business owner in Manzini.

Although two-thirds of Swazis live in poverty, many struggling on one meal a day, according to the World Food Programme, millions of rand are spent each year to celebrate Mswati’s birthday. - Independent Foreign Service

The Mercury