Leopards and Spots

Heads up: A thin-lipped Ma Ying-jeou accepts a gift from Swaziland's King Mswati III. Taiwan's prez invited Mswati out for a jog, though it's unclear whether the flabby monarch accepted. Perhaps they can exchange notes on autocratic regimes with a stroll round CKS Memorial Hall when Mswati visits Taiwan for the 13th time later this year.

The above pic has been doing the rounds on Facebook today. It’s pretty grotesque, but shouldn’t surprise anyone who pays more than cursory attention to Taiwan’s diplomatic relations. Oh, wait, that’s pretty much no one, then.

While Swaziland’s King Mswati III spunks his self-awarded salary on luxury cars (he’s banned the media from taking photos of them) and aircraft, redecorates his palaces with millions swiped from public coffers, and kidnaps teenagers to add to his collection of wives (he’s currently on 13), his countrymen are still reeling from a fiscal crisis that has left 60-plus percent of them below the extreme poverty line on US$1.25 a day.

This is a man who, with an almost unfathomable 50 percent of 20-something Swazis HIV positive, recommends sterilizing and branding. Just last month, Amnesty reported that torture and rights abuses in Swaziland remained widespread. Divergence from the image of the king as a cuddly patriarch is invariably quashed, with not even the wilderness remote enough for the lone voice of dissent. (Having refused to preside over the firing of the judge in the story linked there, Justice Minister David Matse was himself told to do one.)

But this is not news. Since I wrote about Taiwan’s African allies more than four years ago, nothing much has changed. The same unsavoury characters are still calling the shots: Compaore in Burkina Faso and AIDS miracle-worker Jammeh in The Gambia. If the latter’s secret blend of herbs doesn’t cure you, it’s probably because you’re a homosexual, in which case you’ll have your head removed.

Speaking of which: when they have perennially shown a disregard for the citizens of these countries, why would Taiwan’s leaders give a shit about a decapitated leopard?

About the Author