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Monday, 23 September, 2002, 10:40 GMT 11:40 UK
Swazi king chooses tenth wife
One of King Mswati III fiancées wearing a tassel
The King has violated his own ban on underage marriages
Swazi monarch King Mswati III plans to marry once again, bringing the total number of his official wives to 10.


A private traditional ceremony will be held at the royal village with the bride's family.

The Palace

The 34-year-old king chose high school student Nolichwa Ayanda Ntenteza, 18, as his new bride two months after marrying wives number eight and nine.

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

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.

Sex ban

"A private traditional ceremony will be held at the royal village with the bride's family," the palace source told Reuters news agency.

No date for the wedding was set.

However, King Mswati, who has ruled the tiny southern African kingdom since 1986, is expected to pay Ntenteza's family the traditional fine of one cow for violating his own five-year-ban on sexual relations with young female subjects, the Associated Press news agency reports.

King Mswati III
Swaziland clings to ancient traditions

Under the ban, Ms Ntenteza would be considered to be under age.

He announced the reinstatement of the traditional chastity rites of umchwasho last year in an attempt to stem the high rate of HIV infections in his country.

Insults

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

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.

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.

See also:

03 Jun 02 | Africa
14 Feb 02 | Africa
12 Nov 01 | Africa
26 Oct 01 | Africa
28 Sep 01 | Africa
17 Sep 01 | Africa
10 Jan 01 | Country profiles
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