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Thursday, 31 August, 2000, 14:11 GMT 15:11 UK
No new bride for Swazi king
Swaziland's King Mswati III has declined his annual opportunity to take a new wife.

The Reed Dance - the ceremony where the king may select a new spouse each year - took place on Monday.

King Mswati III
King Mswati: Seven wives so far
But as Swazis returned to work after the national holiday which marks the day of the Reed Dance, it was revealed that King Mswati would not be choosing his eighth wife from among the 20,000 scantily-clad young women who presented themselves.

It has been suggested that the king turned down the opportunity of a new bride because he wed his seventh wife only recently - though she had been selected at the previous Reed Dance a year ago.

The monarch's wedding to Senteni Masango took place quietly, after critics had suggested that she had dropped out of school, and was therefore an unsuitable bride.

Chieftainship row

In a further controversy, subjects from the east of the country stayed away from the dance, in protest against a chieftaincy row involving one of the king's brothers.

But reports speak of boisterous local crowds, as well as a number of tourists, turning out to view the bare-breasted dance at Mswati's royal capital, Lobamba.

King Sobhuza II
The late King Sobhuza: More than 60 marriages
Multiple marriages are the norm among Swazi monarchs, with the Umhlanga ceremony providing the opportunity for annual weddings should the king so wish.

King Mswati's father, the late King Sobhuza II, reigned for over 60 years, and by the time of his death in 1982 had more than 60 wives.

The large number of his offspring led to a lengthy argument over who was to succeed him - and it was not until 1986 that Mswati, then aged only 18, was confirmed as the new king.

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07 Aug 00 | Africa
Royal wedding for Swazi 'dropout'
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