Swaziland reed dance. 010914 Picture: The Backpacker Spot/Twitter

Mbabane - Tens of thousands of Swazi girls danced before King Mswati on Monday in the annual Reed Dance, and a newspaper owned by the royal conglomerate used the occasion to announce that the king had wed his 14th wife, who he had selected from among the maidens at last year’s reed dance.

The new queen was seated among some of Mswati’s other wives. By wearing traditional attire reserved for royal wives, she signalled a wedding ceremony had taken place.

The wedding has not been publicised and confusion over the number of Mswati’s wives has had some palace observers numbering the new Queen LaFogiyane as Mswati’s 15th wife.

But Monday belonged to Swazi maidens, one of whom may become the next queen.

The palace announced that more than 80 000 had danced, but observers said the number was probably less than half that.

Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini, who was in the country for the weekend, and expected to attend the Reed Dance, had suggested that schools in KwaZulu/Natal be closed to maximise participation at the Zulu Reed Dance.

In Swaziland, all schools were closed for the dance, and the day was declared a national holiday.

Topless, the girls wore little more than beaded belts that concealed their frontal private parts but left their buttocks exposed.

Strict enforcement of photography was observed and one photographer who tried to take pictures from a low angle to show the girls’ frontal nakedness was ejected from the ceremony.

While no speeches were made at Ludzdidzini royal residence, 20km east of Mbabane, both King Mswati and King Zwelithini had given speeches at the weekend at a trade fair in Manzini.

Zwelithini, a frequent guest of Mswati, has two Swazi wives. He spoke strongly in support of Mswati’s absolute monarchy and condemned South Africa’s labour union activities.

Cosatu is strongly critical of Mswati’s autocratic style of government and is an ally of the Swazi union and political opposition.

In a speech broadcast live on the country’s only TV station, which is run by the government, Zwelithini warned that Swazis would destroy their country if they followed South Africa’s example.

“Do not burn your country, because investors will run away if you do so. Strike actions do not bring money into a household. Strikes bring hunger and suffering. I have seen this happening in my country,” Zwelithini said.

Independent Foreign Service