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Thursday, 17 October, 2002, 10:31 GMT 11:31 UK
'Mother-in-law' sues Swazi king
One of King Mswati III's earlier fiancées (wearing tassels)
The king has violated his own ban on underage sex
A mother has taken the King of Swaziland, Mswati III, to court demanding her daughter's return after she was selected as a royal bride.

The mother, Lindiwe Dlamini, says her 18-year-old daughter, Zena Mahlangu, was taken away without parental consent and has called for her immediate release.

When I read the story in the paper, my heart bled

Women's rights' activist Phumzile Dlamini
A spokesman for the royal family said on Wednesday that three young women, including Zena, were being held at one of the king's palaces to carry out "royal duties".

The 34-year-old king announced last month that he planned to marry once again, two months after marrying wives number eight and nine.

Swaziland's high court is expected to rule on the case on Monday.


Zena's mother says her daughter has missed school and could waste her academic year if she is not allowed to write her end-of-year exams.

"The continued detention of Zena without my consent is a criminal offence," Mrs Dlamini told the court on Tuesday.

King Mswati III
The king has extended the political powers inherited from his father

This is the first time the mother of a prospective Swazi Queen has taken legal action against the royal family, The Times of Swaziland reports.

Women rights activists have rallied behind Mrs Dlamini.

"When I read the story in the paper, my heart bled. I imagined what she had been going through, to eventually take action," campaigner Phumzile Dlamini told The Times.

The father of Noliqhwa Ntentesa, a young woman held together with Zena, has said he would also sue the king if he could afford it.

"If I had money I would also take those who abducted my child to court like Lindiwe did," Mr Ntentesa told the paper.

But the father of the third young woman, Sandra Dlamini, disagreed.

"If royalty has chosen to go on with what does not please you, as a true Swazi, you should change your attitude and thank royalty for whatever it has decided to do," he was quoted as saying.


King Mswati, Africa's last absolute monarch, can choose a new wife every year from among thousands of virgins who parade at the annual reed dance ceremony.

Official biographers say Mswati's father, King Sobhuza, had more than 125 wives during his reign of 61 years, which ended when he died in 1982.

The king¿s first wife, Queen LaMbikiza
King Mswati's first wife is a practising lawyer

Last year, King Mswati revived a traditional ban on sex with underage girls, saying he was trying to fight the spread of Aids.

But women's rights groups have condemned him for violating this ban and continuing to take young girls as new wives.

After protests, he fined himself a cow for breaking his own sex-ban.

Swazi royal weddings usually take place during cold weather and follow an unusual protocol.

Neither the bride nor her relatives are ever informed of the pending marriage.

See also:

23 Sep 02 | Africa
03 Jun 02 | Africa
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