Media in Swaziland are once again censoring themselves when reporting about King Mswati III.
The latest case involves his new fiancée, the 18-year-old beauty queen contestant Sindiswa Dlamini.
News broke at a Reed Dance in the southern provincial capital, Nhlangano, in Swaziland last week that the 45-year-old king had chosen her as his new bride from among tens of thousands of bare-breasted ‘virgins’ who paraded before him at annual Reed Dance celebrations.
Media in Swaziland predictably reported the event as if it were quite natural for a middle-aged man to wed a ‘virgin’ who was younger than many of his daughters.
But outside the kingdom, which King Mswati rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, the media have been more candid.
They reported Dlamini as the king’s 14th bride, although some counted her as wife number 15. The confusion was excusable since the number of wives the king has is considered a state secret in Swaziland and it is considered ‘un-Swazi’ to talk openly about King Mswati’s polygamy.
Media outside Swaziland are reporting that ‘Naughty Sindi’, as the Sunday Sun newspaper in South Africa describes her, has had affairs with two of King Mswati’s sons, Prince Majaha and Prince Bandzile, who are both in their early twenties.
One unnamed source told the newspaper, ‘Sindi has dated both these boys. She’s a party girl used to having fun.’
Another informant told Sunday Sun, ‘Sindi is no virgin. She drinks and smokes a lot and has tattoos on parts of her body I cannot mention.’
One source told the newspaper, ‘She is only doing it [marrying the king] because she comes from a poor background.’
The media in Swaziland never report about the king without his permission. This means people across the world are better informed than the king’s subjects, the Swazi people.
This is not the first time the media in Swaziland have refused to keep its readers informed about the Swazi Royal Family. In August 2010, the world’s media were excited by the case of Swaziland Justice Minister Ndumiso Mamba and King Mswati’s 12th wife, 22-year-old Inkhosikati Nothando LaDube. This was after pictures appeared of Mamba hiding in a bed before his arrest at Royal Villas, a hotel at Ezulwini just outside Mbabane, where he was said to have had regular adulterous meetings with LaDube.
The City Press in South Africa reported at the time that when police pounced, ‘in a desperate effort not to be found out Mamba cut into the base of the bed and slid in – but police ordered him out and Mamba, dressed in a brown suit, was soon taken into custody’. He was later forced to resign from the government and the Senate.
The aftermath of the scandal ran for at least two months: all unreported by media in Swaziland.
Most of the broadcast media in Swaziland that carries news and current affairs reporting are government controlled and are banned directly from adversely reporting about the royal family.
There are two newspaper groups in Swaziland. One, the Swazi Observer is in effect owned by the king, and the other, the Times of Swaziland censors itself heavily when reporting about the monarchy.
In April 2007, King Mswati personally threatened the Times with closure after the Times Sunday published a minor criticism of him sourced from Afrol, an international news agency. The king said he would close the paper down unless people responsible for the publication at the paper were sacked and the newspaper published an abject apology to the king. These things were done.