The Reed Dance, billed as Swaziland’s foremost cultural days, proved to be anything but, when 120,000 half-naked maidens reportedly sang a song praising King Mswati III’s latest pronouncement about his continued rule over his kingdom.
They praised the King for announcing at the weekend that henceforth Swaziland would be a ‘Monarchical Democracy’. This is a new name for the already existing ‘Tinkhundla’ system that bans political parties from elections and puts all power in the hands of the king.
The king said he had been told in a vision to make this change.
The song included these words (loosely translated from the original), ‘Your Majesty Swaziland is well governed through the Tinkhundla System of Democracy and will be victorious through it.’
The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom, reported, ‘Royal Swaziland Police Superintendent Wendy Hleta who was the Master (sic) of Ceremonies together with Former Indvuna YeMbali Nothando Ntshangase noted that the maidens were seemingly pleased with the message conveyed by the new composition.’
Hleta told the newspaper, ‘Your Majesty, through this song the maidens are expressing their happiness of being governed through the Tinkhundla System of Monarchical Democracy.’
It is nothing new for participants in the Reed Dance, also known as Umhlanga, to sing anti-democracy songs.
Last year (2013), about 500 children were ordered to sing a song vilifying political parties. They were then ordered to return to their homes and teach the words to other girls in their chiefdoms. This was part of a clampdown on dissent in the kingdom, where the king rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.
In 2009, the South Africa Press Association reported, ‘During the four-hour event, children sang songs which glorified Mswati and condemned his enemies.’
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