|Swaziland’s King Mswati III, attends the annual reed dance in Ludzidzini,
Swaziland, Monday, Aug. 29, 2005, where young girls perform a dance
after days of gathering reeds to present to the king. The annual reed
dance gives Mswati an opportunity to choose another wife should he
so wish. Last week the king abandoned an unpopular HIV-prevention campaign,
launched in 2001, that urged girls in the country to remain virgins.
(AP Photo/Siphiwe Sibeko)
MBABANE, Swaziland –The Swazi king’s daughter has long raised eyebrows
with her Western-style clothes. Now her decision to hold a drinking party
to celebrate the end of a chastity decree has shocked members of Africa’s
last absolute monarchy — and resulted in a beating.
The scandal caused by Princess Sikhanyiso’s latest flouting of tradition
has cast a pall over Swaziland’s royal bride-choosing festivities, when
her father was to select another wife.
The annual reed dance, at which 20,000 girls in beads and traditional skirts
danced before King Mswati III, ended late Monday with no indication of
whether he had chosen a bride. In recent years, the king has increasingly
made his choice in private, after a screening by palace aides and his mother.
Royal officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the issue
is considered sensitive, said Tuesday the king had privately chosen three
potential brides and might unveil one at a ceremony in southern Swaziland
After the road test…
Royal officials had tried to keep word of Princess Sikhanyiso’s party
quiet during the reed dance, but acknowledged late Monday it had occurred
Friday to celebrate the end of a ban on sexual relations for girls younger
than 18. The chastity rite is separate from the bride-choosing ritual.
In 2001, Mswati temporarily revived the ancient "umchwasho" rite
— symbolized by the wearing of woolen tassels — to fight AIDS, which
is at crisis levels in Swaziland, but it was ridiculed as old-fashioned
and unfairly focused on girls. Days before the reed dance, the king announced
he was ending the ban a year early.
His eldest daughter, a 17-year-old who was rarely seen in the umchwasho
tassels herself, said Friday’s party with loud music and alcoholic drinks
was a private gathering that did not warrant the public scrutiny it received.
"We were just enjoying ourselves," Princess Sikhanyiso was quoted
as saying in a local newspaper. Ntsonjeni Dlamini, who oversees traditional
affairs, was not amused.
"We were so shocked that the girls decided to turn the reed dance ceremony
into a drinking and dancing spree," Dlamini said Monday.
He said he was compelled by tradition to beat the celebrating girls –
including the king’s daughter — with a stick.
We smell a reality TV show – "The Swazi Princess Diaries". MTV is already making
Note to Prince Mgunisawta, Senior Advisor to his Royal Majesty King Mswati III, Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Swaziland: $100,000 in unmarked, nosequential bills deposited in the dumpster behind our office on Dummer Street as a token of good faith would move negotiations along nicely….