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Monday, 3 June, 2002, 19:47 GMT 20:47 UK
Swazi king takes ninth wife
One of King Mswati III fiancées wearing a tassel
Tassels were re-introduced to deter under-age sex

Swazi monarch King Mswati III has married once again, bringing the total number of his official wives to nine.

The wedding during which the king married his ninth wife, Nontsetselelo Magongo, an 18-year-old girl forced to leave school last year amid protests from human rights and anti-child abuse institutions in Swaziland and abroad, took place on Saturday evening.

Royal sources said on Monday that the ceremony was once again conducted by King Mswati's sisters, as well as the wives of his late father, King Sobhuza II, at the Ludzidzini royal residence.

Nontsetselelo's marriage comes barely a week after the king married another wife - LaGija, as she is officially known at the same residence - in chilly weather.

Nontsetselo's nuptials took place in the same circumstances: the weather was extremely cold throughout the weekend.

Traditionally, the bride is made to sleep with her husband-to-be and, in the middle of the night, relatives of the groom call her to come out.

Insulted

The groom then opens the door for the women who shout abuse at the new bride.

When she is outside, she is required to bare her chest and forced to hold down a spear on cow dung.

She is then insulted and she cries until dawn.

Relatives of the new bride are then called to her rescue after being presented with a bull by way of a fine.

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

King Mswati III
Swaziland clings to ancient traditions

In Nontsetselelo's case, royal sources say that she would not cry even when insults not fit to be published were hurled at her.

She survived the chilly weather until her relatives from Mahlanya, about three kilometres from the Ludzidzini residence, came and rescued her from the cold weather.

Nontsetselelo has recently been seen without her red and black woollen tassels known as umcwasho, and there have been strong suspicions that she may be pregnant.

But such suspicions were ruled out as "nonsense" by the senior members of the royal family who accused the foreign media of interfering "too much" with royal matters.

As the month of August approaches some believe that the 34-year-old absolute monarch could pick another wife during the cultural reed dance (umhlanga) where young maidens strip naked and wear mini-skirts made out of beads (buhlalu) and then dance before the King.

Aids tests

It is during such a dance that the king picks the most beautiful maiden, who is then grabbed by soldiers who hide her away from the others until her parents are informed.

With the king taking so many wives, Aids activists have expressed concern over the large number of wives and offspring the king has.

King Mswati has so far produced about 15 children.

His father, King Sobhuza II, had more than 50 wives and nearly 300 children.

King Mswati has, however, tried to reassure his subjects by saying that he and his wives are tested for HIV/Aids every six months.

See also:

14 Feb 02 | Africa
12 Nov 01 | Africa
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17 Sep 01 | Africa
10 Jan 01 | Country profiles
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