Swaziland’s King Mswati III has married married his 14th wife, the media confirmed.
According to the Maravi Post newspaper, the King’s latest wife is Siphelele Mashwama, 19, the daughter of Cabinet minister Jabulile Mashwama.
The paper quoted the Royal Festivities Overseer, Mr Hlangabeza Mdluli, confirming Ms Mashwama as the king’s new bride.
The confirmation on Saturday came following weeks of speculation. “The new bride is currently in New York in the United States, where the 49-year old King is attending the United Nations General Assembly,” Mr Mdluli was further quoted.
He said the the king made his choice of the new wife as he prepared to fly to New York. It is a Swazi tradition for the king to choose a wife every year.
The Sherburne-educated King Mswati III choses a new bride during the famous Reed Dance ceremony, also known as Umhlanga. The Reed Dance ceremony is an annual Swazi and Zulu tradition held in August or September.
In Swaziland, thousands of unmarried and childless girls and women travel from the various chiefdoms to Ludzidzini to participate in the eight-day event, and would-be brides are publicly checked to ascertain their virginity.
King Mswati III was crowned in 1986 at the age of 18, succeeding his long-serving father King Sobhuza II, who died at the age of 82.
The king, who is known as Ngweyama – “the lion” – often appears in public in traditional dress.
Swaziland is one of the world’s last remaining absolute monarchies. It has, according to Unicef, the highest HIV/Aids prevalence rate globally.
Some 210,000 Swazis were living with the HIV infection. Swaziland, with a population of 1.2 million, ranks 112 out of 131 on the 2016 Global Hunger Index.
About 77 per cent of the Swazi population relies on subsistence farming for their livelihood.