Swaziland's King Mswati III.

Durban - Swazi King Mswati III, 45, has chosen 18-year-old beauty pageant contestant Sindiswa Dlamini as his 15th wife.

Dlamini was selected at the annual Reed Dance, where thousands of Swazi maidens dance bare-breasted for the king’s pleasure.

“I wish to confirm we have a new liphovela (royal fiancée),” announced Hlangabeza Mdluli, the overseer of the maidens.

Dlamini was presented to the king and the Swazi people at a Reed Dance in the southern provincial capital, Nhlangano, on Saturday. The main Reed Dance, at which Mswati has chosen previous wives, was held in central Swaziland last month.

In recent years an additional Reed Dance has been held in the south to broaden the king’s choice from his young female subjects.

Dlamini was a finalist in the Swaziland Miss Cultural Heritage beauty pageant this year.

Nelson Mandela’s grandson, Mandla, attended the dance in traditional attire and brandished a fighting stick and cowhide shield when he reviewed a formation of maidens lined up for Mswati.

A hundred members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) election monitoring team also attended. The election observers jostled to get their pictures taken with the king.

Swaziland holds parliamentary elections on Friday, although its parliament does not have any power in sub-Saharan Africa’s only absolute monarchy.

“No doubt the king timed the Reed Dance and the public presentation of his new fiancée to entertain the SADC election monitors,” said Solomon Masango, a local youth guidance counsellor. “He succeeded. Everyone who comes to Swaziland wants to see the king’s harem. They were thrilled to get their pictures taken with the king.”

Mswati’s fiancée will be cloistered in one of the king’s many palaces until the wedding, to be held in private next year. – Foreign Service