HRH Mangaliso Dlamini on Aids
Swaziland's royalty joined the Aids denialist bandwagon this week, claiming greedy pharmaceutical companies were withholding a cure for HIV/Aids so that they could maximise their profits from antiretroviral drugs.
Prince Mangaliso Dlamini, high-profile cousin of Swaziland's King Mswati III, also dismissed abstinence, faithfulness and circumcision as effective ways of curbing the spread of HIV/Aids.
"I believe that HIV figures are exaggerated and I don't believe that abstinence, faithfulness and circumcision are a means of curbing HIV.
"I believe that there is a cure for HIV, but ruthless capitalist pharmaceutical companies are reluctant to release it because they are still making money," Dlamini told the Times of Swaziland.
Describing himself as a "fearless human being", Dlamini said he was not scared of HIV/Aids.
The UN reports that Swaziland has the highest HIV/Aids infection rates in the world, with an estimated one in four adult Swazis - or 26.1 percent - living with the disease.
Dlamini's comments have since sparked outrage from opposition politicians and health activists.
Siphiwe Hlophe, national director of Swaziland Positive Living, said the NGO was disappointed by the irresponsible comments from a leader in a country devastated by HIV/Aids.
"Our country has the highest HIV prevalence on the continent, if not the world, so we expect our leaders to use their brains and think carefully when talking about the virus. Dlamini has showed his true colours - that he does not believe HIV/Aids exists - and we don't need a leader like that," said Hlophe.
Swaziland Solidarity Network spokesman Lucky Lukhele said the 60-year-old Dlamini had numerous children who had been born out of wedlock, many of whom had no personal relationship with him.
"Dlamini is a polygamist whose number of wives is unknown. Like his (cousin), King Mswati, he still holds on to backward views of expressing his manhood through his virility.
"The existence of such attitudes among people who are supposed to be role models to the country's youth is disturbing and goes a long way towards explaining why the country has the highest HIV infection rate in the whole world.
"As the nation prepares for its annual reed dance on August 27, it is important that people become aware of the lecherous members of the royal family who use it as a hunting ground to satisfy their insatiable sexual appetites," he added.
Dlamini and the CEO in the king's office, Bheki Dlamini, were not available for comment on Friday.
Dlamini's comments are the latest in a series of PR disasters for the kingdom's fight against the pandemic.
In May last year, Swaziland MP Timothy Myeni, who is also a founder member of popular gospel group Ncandweni Christ Ambassadors, was criticised internationally for saying that HIV-positive people in the kingdom should be branded on the buttocks.
The Treatment Action Campaign has criticised Dlamini, and it's co-ordinator in Mpumalanga, Bheki Khoza, accused the prince of reversing 10 years' progress made in the kingdom's fight against the scourge.
"Does he have any idea of the destructive outcome his comments can have on the people of Swaziland? He should be charged with crimes against humanity," said Khoza. - AENS