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Swaziland King's Future Mother-in-Law Drops Case Against Monarchy - 2002-11-05


A woman in Swaziland has essentially withdrawn her court case against two of the king's aides who she accused of kidnapping her daughter to become the king's tenth wife. The case has sparked widespread debate over the independence of the justice system in Africa's only absolute monarchy.

The woman, Lindiwe Dlamini, has indefinitely postponed her case against two royal aides who took her daughter away last month to become the tenth wife of King Mswati. The daughter, 18-year-old Zena Mahlangu, went through traditional Swazi marriage rituals over the weekend.

Under Swazi custom, marriage lasts for life. It cannot be undone.

Ms. Dlamini's lawyer said she believes there is no longer any point in continuing her battle to force the royal family to release her daughter. The lawyer said Ms. Dlamini has finally been able to speak by phone with Zena, who told her mother she has accepted her role as the 34-year-old king's wife.

The king chose Zena after she was among a group of girls who performed a traditional dance for him.

The sudden ending of the case is a disappointment to some women's rights activists in the conservative society. Zakhe Hlanze is a Swazi researcher with an advocacy group called Women and Law in Southern Africa.

"It has really done a hard blow to us as women because we wanted this case to actually go through the court system, so maybe we could have a judgment that could be in support of the mother, challenging these two men from abducting her child," he said.

The case sparked international interest because it is almost unheard-of for any Swazi citizen to challenge the king's authority. It brought the justice system to a crisis last month, when the attorney general along with the heads of the army, police and prisons visited the High Court judges and ordered them to stop hearing the case or resign immediately.

The judges refused, and some human rights activists see their defiance as a positive step for the Swazi judiciary.

Among them is Comfort Mabuza, the head of the Swazi branch of the Media Institute of Southern Africa. "So to us it is a victory in a sense that we can question the actions of the monarchy. Whether we win the case or whether the case has now been withdrawn from the high court, the reality of the matter is for the first time the judges were very strong in standing their ground, that they were willing to preside over the matter," he said. The attorney general has apologized to the High Court judges and formally withdrawn his threat. He said he did not intend to attack the judiciary, he simply thought he was defending the best interests of King Mswati.

Meanwhile, Lindiwe Dlamini's lawyer says she reserves the right to re-start her court case if she is not satisfied with the way her daughter is treated by the royal family.

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