Spaniards are up in arms against their King, Juan Carlos, who is in hospital recovering from a hip replacement following an accident while on a secret elephant hunting expedition in Botswana last week.
Juan Carlos slipped into Botswana Monday last week and left Friday. The visit to the Okavango would have remained a secret if he had not hurt himself and had to be flown back to Madrid for urgent treatment. According to international news reports, surgery on the 74-year-old king took place Saturday in Madrid, after he sustained a triple hip fracture during what the royal household called “a private hunting trip to Africa”.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Phandu Skelemani, said on Monday that he was not aware that the King of Spain ever set foot in Botswana. He referred The Telegraph to the Permanent Secretary in his Ministry, Lapologang Lekoa, who was equally in the dark.
“I personally heard that the Spanish King was here on a private visit. I don’t have any information further than that,” said Lekoa. Procedurally dignitaries such as the King would have notified the government of their visits even when they are private to be accorded the necessary state protection.
Late in the afternoon that the acting director of Public Relations and Information Research, Gobe Pitso, telephoned to say that his Ministry was aware of the visit but was not “too involved” as the King’s visit was purely private despite the fact that the Minister and the Permanent Secretary had earlier claimed no knowledge of the King’s visit.
According to the spokesman, the Spanish King came to Botswana on Monday last week and left for Madrid Friday the same week. Asked how the government of Botswana helped the injured King, Pitso said he knew nothing about the accident referred to by the international media.
The international media this week reported that the King’s secret visit to Botswana
has sparked criticism of the monarch’s lifestyle at a time when the country is grappling with an economic crisis.
Spain is believed to be entering its second recession in three years and about a quarter of its work force is unemployed. Spanish news media have reported Spain’s opposition as saying that the king was “demonstrating a lack of ethics and respect toward many people in this country who are suffering a lot” by coming to Botswana for an elephant hunting vacation.
Though he was not hurt while hunting elephant, King Juan Carlos took a similar trip to Botswana in 2006.
Carlos is reported to have encountered several health-related problems recently. Some politicians, rather than expressing sympathy, questioned his trip and asked that the royal household provide further details on its financing.
Apparently, the royal family’s penchant for hunting had already generated controversy this month when a grandson of the king, Felipe Juan Froil├ín Marichalar y Borb├│n, shot himself in the foot with a shotgun at a family estate. The incident is under police investigation because the boy is 13 and Spanish law limits the licensing of such weapons to people 14 and older.
Reports indicate that in the 1950s the Spanish king accidentally shot and killed a brother.