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01 Jan 2002 00:00
Swaziland’s king has defended a custom enabling him to take as many brides as he likes and said a woman who asked the courts to prevent him from marrying her daughter had been badly advised.
King Mswati III, Africa’s last absolute monarch, chose Zena Mahlangu (18) as his 10th wife in September. Mahlangu was taken to a royal guest house by the king’s aides, and her mother, Lindiwe Dlamini, was denied access to her.
Dlamini asked the court to force the royal family to release her daughter, but postponed her lawsuit indefinitely Tuesday, saying she had little chance of winning.
Mswati (34) told journalists late on Tuesday that Dlamini had been misled by subversive groups, who opposed the country’s traditional monarchy.
“They were trying to undermine our culture instead of giving her sound advice in line with the Swazi traditional norms and values,” he said.
“This matter can only be resolved amicably through the traditional structures.”
Mswati said Mahlangu had officially joined the royal family and that he would pay lobola—the traditional bride price—to her family.
“Her future would not be different from that of my other nine wives,” said Mswati, who appeared amused at questions about his marriages.
Swaziland’s king is allowed to marry as often as he pleases.
The monarch said only the Swazi nation, and not the international community, could influence the practice of taking multiple brides. “I am prepared to consider (the custom’s) modernisation if the Swazi nation says so,” he said.
Swazi human rights groups, trade unions and opposition parties supported Dlamini’s lawsuit, saying the practice of “abducting” girls to marry the king was a human rights violation.
The unprecedented court case was seen as an embarrassment for the king, pitting the tiny southern African nation’s traditional royalty against its independent court system.
Last month Swaziland’s security chief, police commissioner, army commander and attorney general ordered three judges to dismiss the lawsuit or resign. They refused.
Mswati vehemently denied interfering in the case, saying the judiciary had always been respected in Swaziland, although there were instances where conflict arose between traditional principles and the modern legal system.
Opponents of the monarchy accuse the royal family of using tradition to further its personal interests. Mswati said most of his one-million subjects backed his rule.
“Swazis love their king,” he said. - Sapa-AP
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