News / Africa

Swazi King Loses Two Wives - Still Has 11

One of Swazi King Mswati's 13 wives arrives for the annual Reed Dance, at Ludzidzini in Swaziland, August 28, 2011.
One of Swazi King Mswati's 13 wives arrives for the annual Reed Dance, at Ludzidzini in Swaziland, August 28, 2011.
Peta Thornycroft

King Mswati the third, the absolute ruler of Swaziland, is having marriage problems as two of his wives have abandoned him and gone to South Africa, and one of his remaining 11 wives reportedly also tried to leave but is under house arrest. Bankrupt Swaziland is struggling to treat people in hospitals and educate children at schools, and many citizens are blaming King Mswati’s lavish lifestyle for the country’s financial predicament.

Mswati’s chief officer, Bheki Dlamini, confirmed that two of the kings’ wives had left the monarch, but said this happened some time ago. He said he did not know that another wife wanted to flee the small southern African kingdom.

Independent newspapers in neighboring South Africa report that Queen Inkosikati LaDube is trying to leave the country, but is under house arrest and feels she cannot leave without her three children.

Lucky Lukhele, the spokesman in South Africa for the Swaziland Solidarity Network, said many are concerned about the physical safety of the queen.

“She is under house arrest. She is not allowed to go out and attend any functions, only when she is sick, and she has been beaten twice by the security force," said Lukhele.

The Swaziland Solidarity Network encourages a cultural boycott of Swaziland and works with other organizations to isolate King Mswati.  The network describes the king as an absolute ruler who tolerates no democratic organizations, trade unions or free media.

Swaziland is bankrupt, and in August, South Africa offered Mswati a loan of about $400 million. But the South African government said it would administer the disbursement of those funds and tied the loan to democratic reforms.

So far, the king has not taken up the offer. Meanwhile, pro-democracy activists say that hospitals are without drugs and that large numbers of people with HIV/AIDS can no longer access anti-retroviral drugs because the state does not have the cash to import them.

Political analysts in South Africa say that although the British-educated king rules by decree and has expensive tastes, he still has considerable support from many traditionalists in much of the mainly rural kingdom.  

King Mswati ascended to the throne in 1986, and no law can pass without his signature and that of his mother, also known as the 'She Elephant.'


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