Mswati torpedoes lawsuit: gets engaged

In a move that appeared to end an embarrassing episode for Swaziland’s royal family, King Mswati III has become engaged to a woman whose mother is suing to prevent the pair from marrying, royal sources said on Monday.

Under Swazi tradition, the engagement on Sunday effectively made Zena Zoraya Mahlangu the king’s 10th wife and likely destroyed the lawsuit’s chances of success. Mahlangu (18) and two other women were picked up by Mswati’s aides in September after the king decided they would be his 10th, 11th and 12th wives.

In an unprecedented case pitting traditional royalty against a modern judiciary in this southern African country, Mahlangu’s mother, Lindiwe Dlamini, asked the court to force the royal family to release her daughter from a royal guest house.

Mswati, Africa’s last absolute monarch, is above the law. Nevertheless, the lawsuit, which did not name the king as a defendant, was an embarrassment for the royal family.
Last week, the royal palace sent the country’s security chief, police commissioner, attorney-general and army commander to tell the three judges hearing the case to dismiss it or resign. They refused and scheduled another hearing for Tuesday. However, the engagement on Sunday appeared to pre-empt that hearing.

In a traditional Swazi engagement ceremony at the royal residence, Queen Mother Ntombi presented Mahlangu with the ceremonial attire—usually a beaded cloth with a picture of Mswati—and gave her advice on how to behave as the king’s fiance, royal sources said on condition of anonymity.

Mahlangu will officially become Mswati’s wife when she becomes pregnant. There was no immediate reaction from Dlamini. Mswati can marry as often as he pleases. His father, King Sobuza II, had more than 100 wives when he died in 1982 after 60 years on the throne. - Sapa-AP

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