25 September 2017

Swaziland: King Mswati III Takes 14th Wife After Umhlanga Reed Dance Festival

Photo: Taurai Maduna/IRIN
King Mswati - one of Africa's last executive monarchs (file photo).

King Mswati III of Swaziland has taken another wife. During the recent Umhlanga Annual Reed Dance, King Mswati III chose 19 year-old Siphele Mashwama as his 14th wife.

King Mswati III took his 14th wife after this year's Reed Dance Festival. Siphele Mashwama, a 19 year-old girl and the daughter of Swaziland Cabinet minister Jabulile Mashwama, is Mswati's 14th wife.

Mswati (49) usually picks his wives during the Umhlanga annual reed dance. Most of the girls he picks are in their late teens. Despite banning divorce in his kingdom, King Mswati has separated from three of his wives.

Siphelele received red feathers known as emagwalagwala, a bird associated with the royal family during the reed dance. She graduated from Waterford Kamhlaba World University College. King Mswati III recently attended the United Nations General Assembly with his new wife.

Mswati's father, King Sobhuza II married 70 wives during his lifetime. King Mswati III has faced criticism about his accumulation of wealth while many of his people live in poverty. Recently, the small kingdom spent a sum of $2.2m for 14 luxury BMW 740i cars and 80 motorbikes. The cars were for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) heads of state to use for a two day summit.

New bride, his 14th, for Swazi King Mswati https://t.co/MRDLysemuv pic.twitter.com/LApe2GFnI5

- City Press Online (@City_Press) September 19, 2017

In Swaziland, thousands of girls attend the eight day Umhlanga Festival.

The event comes at a time when Swaziland passed a law against those bad mouthing the kingdom. The new rule passed, made it an offence for anyone to incite hatred or contempt against the cultural and traditional heritage of the Swazi nation. The punishment for such an offence is a fine of $765 (E10, 000), two years imprisonment or both.

According to the Times of Swaziland a similar penalty is given to anyone who trashes, burns, destroys, defaces or defiles any national insignia or emblem. The rules came into play with the passing of Public Order Act 2017. A national emblem is any weaving, embroidery, sewing, drawing, picture, illustration and painting which represents His Majesty, the Indlovukati (the female head of state), national flag or Swaziland Coat of Arms .

The destruction of any other special cultural or traditional identity or significance comes with a penalty of $765 or two years imprisonment. Swaziland makes a lot of money from tourism during the many cultural festivals it holds.

At Swaziland's independence on 6 September 1968, Swaziland adopted a Westminster-style constitution. On 12 April 1973 King Sobhuza II annulled it by decree. Sobhuza II assumed supreme powers in all executive, judicial and legislative matters.

The kingdom has consistently experienced public protests against the monarchy, calling for a return to democracy. King Mswati III is the last absolute monarch in sub-Saharan Africa. Critics describe King Mswati III as highly intolerant. Earlier this year civil society groups had threatened a go slow protest at the kingdom's entry points demanding that the 44 year decree banning political parties be repealed.

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