Mswati III, King of Swaziland, has taken his 15th wife, an 18-year-old beauty pageant contestant. Ludzidzini Palace governor Timothy Mtetwa said on Tuesday, “I can confirm that the king has introduced to the nation a new liphovela (royal fiancee).”
Forty-five-year-old Mswati, the last absolute monarch in sub-Saharan Africa, introduced new bride Sindiswa Dlamini at a Reed Dance last weekend. Dlamini, a graduate of Mbabane’s St Francis High School and a finalist in the Miss Cultural Heritage beauty pageant, donned royal red feathers, a sign of royalty. Dlamini was presented to the king and the Swazi people at a Reed Dance in the southern provincial capital, Nhlangano, on Saturday.Although the king has many wives, all has not been well in the palace.Three wives have left the household in recent years. The latest, Queen LaGija, fled the palace in 2012 claiming years of physical and emotional abuse.Another queen, LaDube, was reportedly abused after she was caught in bed with the justice minister, a close friend of the king. Mswati had kidnapped and married the queen when she was 16 in 2005.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.Nelson Mandela’s grandson, Mandla, attended the recent 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 today, 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.”The monarch’s colourful private life is off-limits in local media, but has drawn a lot of international interest.Mswati, who has a personal fortune of roughly $200m (about Shs500b), is a controversial figure in Swaziland, where up to 70 per cent of its 1.2 million citizens are impoverished. Mswati staunchly resists government reforms, and is free to choose the prime minister, other top government posts and top traditional posts – though he takes special advice from the queen mother and other special counsel.GGVMswati’s fiancée will be cloistered in one of the king’s many palaces and the wedding will only take place, in private next year, once the fiancée falls pregnant. Dlamini will then become Mswati’s 15th wife.