Mswati’s fiancée unveiled at annual reed dance
The Southern Times Writer
Ludzidzini – A new fiancée for Swaziland’s King Mswatii III fiancée was unveiled during this year’s annual reed dance ceremony here.
Siphelele Mashwama, daughter of the Minister of Natural Resources and Energy, Jabulile Mashwama, was unveiled as the kings’ liphovela (fiancee).
Liphovela LaMashwama was recognised by the cladding of the royal red feathers around her head, which is only worn by royalty.
Her picking is a cultural process reserved only for the king which occurs once a year, during the reed dance ceremony where over 100,000 maidens dance before the king and the nation to celebrate their virginity.
It was not yet clear when the king would marry Siphelele and make her his 15th wife.
King Mswati has deliberately abandoned picking a maiden during some of the past years’ events for reasons known to royalty. If he had been picking every year he would be having 29 wives and one fiancée because he has seen 30 reed dance ceremonies since he was coronated into power in 1986.
Sphelele Mashwama was a student of Waterford College when she decided to participate in the 2017 annual reed dance, and by virtue of being chosen by the king, she will automatically drop out of school as she is now engaged to him, and is expected to undergo certain cultural grooming in preparation for the royal marriage.
Also remarkable during the dance was that, unlike other maidens, Sphelele was dancing under tight police and army security and men who were spectators were warned not to approach her as she was the special maiden of the day.
By then it had not been confirmed that she was the chosen one until the king’s emissary, Hlangabeza Mdluli, confirmed to local media.
The new fiancee had been slotted to accompany the king during his trip to the UN General Assembly last week. Usually, the king’s wives take turns to accompany him on international trips, something that is a responsibility of protocol officers.
King Mswati III already has 14 wives known as Emakhosikati and, in order of marriage, they are: LaMatsebula, LaMotsa, LaMbikiza, LaNgangaza, LaMagwaza, LaHwala, LaMagongo, LaMasango, LaGija, LaMahlangu, LaNtenteza, LaNkambule, LaDube and LaFogiyane.
Sphelele will be joining royalty as the 15th and youngest wife and her marriage title will be LaMashwama.
The king has about 25 children and his first born is 30-year-old Princess Sikhanyiso.
Princess Sikhanyiso is the king’s daughter born from his third wife, Inkhosikati LaMbikiza.
During the reed dance, Zambian President Edgar Lungu was guest of honour as he joined the Swazi nation in celebrating one of the country’s prestigious traditional ceremonies.
The Swazi tradition, which has been celebrated for decades, calls for maidens from all the four regions of Swaziland to gather at the Ludzidzini Royal Residence to dance before King Mswati, his mother, officially known as the Queen Mother, and the entire Swazi nation, after fetching reeds which are used to rehabilitate royal huts.
The ceremony is much loved by the Swazi maidens that each year the number of maidens who attend the ceremony increases. This year, the ceremony was attended by just over 100,000 maidens and was on the main reed dance day on September 4 joined by hundreds of maidens who just came to the dance festivities.
President Lungu was the king’s guest of honour and he attended the ceremony clad in traditional regalia, which was pleasant to see as most leaders who are usually invited to the national ceremony usually wear western clothing.
President Lungu joined King Mswati III as he watched the maidens dance in the arena. He also joined the king when he went to dance among the maidens in the dance arena which is known as kudlalisela. He went about this with ease, a sign that he loved the Swazi culture.
The maidens oozed confidence and energy as they danced to the various songs on offer and they excelled during the individual display of talent. The crowd cheered while young men also took turns coming up to dance with the maidens in the arena.
Other guests came from as far as Taiwan, Russia and neighbouring South Africa. Tourists are now a common feature at the reed dance ceremony as they came in their numbers this year. They took turns taking pictures of the maidens in utter awe of the extreme beauty of Swazi culture.
Foreign media also had a field day clicking away pictures of the energetic maidens. Some of the tourists were clad in traditional attire.
The guests were given an opportunity to greet the king and the Queen Mother, where they shook hands with their Majesties. Also in attendance were maidens from South African chiefdoms. Judging from what the MCs of the day said, it was clear that this year’s ceremony recorded high numbers of maidens from outside the country’s borders.
Local diplomats, chiefs, and other high ranking state officials were in attendance and could not miss the events as they were also spotted in the stands.
Over 2,000 maidens from SA
Over 2,000 maidens from South Africa joined the reed dance this year. This is according to the list of registered maidens from the first day of the reed dance.
A total of 245 maidens form Piet Retief attended while 106 came from Bhadzeni. From Johannesburg, 55 maidens registered while Witbank had 61, Ermelo 71 and Mbhuleni recorded a total of 143 maidens.
When interviewed, the maidens all loved their experience at the reed dance this year and vowed to come back next year.
Some of the maidens from South Africa undergo a virginity test before crossing over into the country for the ceremony meant to celebrate a girl child’s purity.
The maidens, led by Princess Sikhanyiso, the king’s first born daughter, danced up a storm in unison. The pre-rehearsals that were done regionally bore the needed fruits as the maidens sang and danced in a purely choreographed fashion to the delight of spectators.
Songs that dominated the ceremony were those that spoke about the election of women into parliament. The country goes for national polls next year.
Nation heeds Queen Mothers’ advice
The Swazi people showed respect to their majesties as they came in their numbers to witness the maidens dancing during the main day of the reed dance following a call by the Queen Mother for parents of the maidens to attend the ceremony and watch their children dance before them.
The Ludzidzini Royal Residence dancing arena proved too small as the nation crammed in to watch the dance.
A week earlier, before the annual reed dance ceremony, the Queen Mother spoke strongly against parents and the general public shunning such cultural events. She stressed that parents had a duty to attend the main day of the reed dance to cheer their children on.
She appealed to the nation to employ the same enthusiasm like the one she sees during football matches.
True to the spirit of respect and heeding royal orders, the public responded positively.
By noon, the Ludzidzini Royal Residence dancing arena was already a hive of activity as people in buses and private vehicles arrived to be part of the cultural masterpiece. Some were in full traditional attires while others went western. – additional reporting by APA.