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Last Updated: Monday, 26 September 2005, 16:09 GMT 17:09 UK
Swazi king picks young new wife
Swaziland's annual Reed dance 29 August 2005
About 50,000 bare-breasted women took part in the August Reed Dance
King Mswati of Swaziland has chosen a teenager to be his 13th wife.

Phindile Nkambule, 17, was revealed to the public when she took part in a traditional Reed Dance ceremony, in which girls perform before the king.

The announcement comes just weeks after Mswati III ended an official ban on sex for women under 18. The ban was aimed at curbing the spread of HIV/Aids.

According to custom, King Mswati, 37, will marry Phindile Nkambule once she becomes pregnant.

She is reported to have caught the king's eye during the main annual Reed Dance in late August, when tens of thousands of bare-breasted girls took part in a traditional rite of Spring.

Ms Nkambule is younger than the king's first daughter, Princess Sikhanyiso, who turned 18 this month.

She will now wear royal loin cloths when she appears in public and has dropped out of school in order to be groomed as the monarch's wife.

Unpopular ban

Days earlier, the king had rescinded a ban on sexual relations for girls younger than 18.

King Mswati III of Swaziland
King Mswati reportedly spotted his new bride at the ceremony
The ban was started by the king in 2001 to fight Aids in a country where some 40% of the population is HIV positive.

But the move had been unpopular with Swazi youths and its implementation had sparked controversy.

Just two months after imposing the ban, the king fined himself a cow for breaking it by taking a 17-year-old girl as his ninth wife.

The Swazi monarch married his 12th wife, aged 18, in June.

He has one other fiancee and 27 children.

Some Swazis are critical of King Mswati - an absolute monarch whose lavish lifestyle and many wives contrast with the poverty of many of his subjects.

Ten BMWs for Swazi king's wives
14 Feb 05 |  Africa
Profile: Troubled King Mswati
04 Dec 01 |  Africa
Country profile: Swaziland
18 May 05 |  Country profiles

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