Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Swaziland's king marries 11th wife in secret ceremony - Mswati's Latest Bride Carrying His 25th Child

Thulani Mthethwa:

While King Mswati III might have 13 wives soon, his father had 70 before his death in 1982

Swaziland's King Mswati III has taken another young bride, his 11th wife since he ascended to the throne in 1986.

Noliqwa Ntentesa, the 21-year-old daughter of a commerce lecturer at the University of Swaziland, was selected in 2002 by the king during the ceremonial annual reed dance - where the king traditionally picks his wives. She already is expecting their first child, which would add to the 24 children so far fathered by the 36-year-old monarch.

Ntentesa, who was forced to drop out of high school when she was selected by the king at the age of 18, was smeared with traditional red ochre and married in a secret wedding service held last week at the Queen Mother's royal residence, the Ludzidzini.

"The ceremony was attended by only the female princess and witnessed by the Queen Mother, Ntombi Thwal," governor of the Queen Mother's royal residence, Jim Gama, said Sunday.

Mswati has set his sights on two more 17-year-olds, Nothando Dube and Xolile Titi Magagula, who quit school to prepare for the marriage and their royal duties. According to Swazi tradition, a woman has to become pregnant before the king can marry her. But there are rumors that Dube is already expecting.

Mswati, Africa's last absolute monarch, is frequently criticized for the lack of democracy, his lavish lifestyle and his luxury cars while many of his 1 million inhabitants live in poverty. Even South Africa, which is normally supportive of its African neighbors, has kept at a distance from the monarch.

He has also been accused of setting a bad example in a country with the world's highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS, with 42.6 percent of pregnant women attending antinatal clinics testing positive for the virus, according to a 2004 survey.

All Mswati's wives live in their own luxurious palaces. At one stage, the latest wife, Ntentesa, was nearly kicked out from a prestigious guest house in the capital city, Mbabane, because of huge unsettled rental bills.

Mswati's father, King Sobhuza II, who led the country to independence in 1968, had more than 70 wives when he died in 1982.

11 wives, 25 kids and going strong

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How many wives does one need?


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