Mswati III

Mswati III is the King of Swaziland and head of the Swazi Royal Family.

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Mswati III (born Makhosetive Dlamini on 19 April 1968[1]) is the King of Swaziland and head of the Swazi Royal Family. In 1986, he succeeded his father Sobhuza II as ruler of the southern African kingdom.

Mswati III is known for his practice of polygamy (although at least two wives are appointed by the state). His policies and opulent lifestyle have also triggered domestic protests.[2]

Early life

He is one of many sons of king Sobhuza II (who had 70 wives, 210 children and at the time of his death left over 1000 grandchildren) and the only child of Ntombi Tfwala, also known as Inkhosikati LaTfwala, one of the king's younger wives. He was born at the Raleigh Fitkin Memorial Hospital, four months before Swaziland attained independence from Britain. When he and his mother were discharged from the hospital they went to live at one of king Sobhuza's residences of Etjeni near Masundwini Palace. His birth name was Makhosetive (King of Nations).

As a young prince, Makhosetive attended Masundwini Primary School and Lozitha Palace School. He sat for the Swaziland Primary Certificate examination in December 1982 at Phondo Royal Residence and got a First Class with merit in Mathematics and English. He developed a great interest in the royal guard, becoming the first young cadet to join the Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force (USDF).

When king Sobhuza II died in 1982, the Great Council of State (the Liqoqo) selected the 14-year-old prince Makhosetive to be the next king.[3] For the next four years two wives of the late king Sobhuza II, Queen Dzeliwe Shongwe (1982–1983) and Queen Ntombi Tfwala (1983–1986), served as regent while he continued his education in England, attending Sherborne School, before he was called back to take over.


Swazi Royal Family

HM The Ndlovukati

  • HM the King
    • HRH Prince Majaha
    • HRH Princess Sikhanyiso
    • HRH Prince Lindaninkosi
    • HRH Princess Temaswati
    • HRH Princess Tiyandza
    • HRH Princess Tebukhosi
    • HRH Prince Bandzile
    • HRH Princess Sibahle
    • HRH Princess Temtsimba
    • HRH Princess Sakhizwe
    • HRH Prince Mcwasho
    • HRH Prince Saziwangaye
    • HRH Princess Makhosothando

He was introduced as Crown Prince in September 1983 and was crowned king on 25 April 1986, aged 18 years and 6 days, and thus making him the youngest reigning monarch until the ascension of King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck of Bhutan on 14 December 2006; he was also the youngest head of state until Joseph Kabila took office on 26 January 2001 as President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The king and his mother, whose title is Indlovukazi (Great She-Elephant), rule jointly.

Today he is Africa's last absolute monarch in the sense that he has the power to choose the prime minister, other top government posts and top traditional posts. Even though he makes the appointments, he still has to get special advice from the queen mother and council, for example when he chooses the prime minister. In matters of cabinet appointments, he gets advice from the prime minister. He ruled by decree, but did restore the nation's Parliament, which had been dissolved by his father in order to ensure concentration of power remained with the king.

In 2004, Mswati promulgated a new constitution that allows freedom of speech and assembly for the media and public, while retaining the traditional Tinkhundla system. Although Amnesty International criticized the new constitution as inadequate in some respects, Swaziland's reporters have told conferences with regional media houses (MISA) that they are generally free to report as they please.

In an attempt to mitigate the HIV and AIDS pandemic in 2001, the king used his traditional powers to invoke a time-honoured chastity rite (umcwasho), which encouraged all Swazi maidens to abstain from sexual relations for five years.[2] This rite banned sexual relations for Swazis under 18 years of age from 9 September 2001 and 19 August 2005, but just two months after imposing the ban, he violated this decree when he married a 17-year-old girl, who became his 13th wife. As per custom, he was fined a cow by members of her regiment, which he duly paid.


The king currently has fourteen wives and 23 children. A Swazi king's first two wives are chosen for him by the national councillors. There are complex rules on succession. According to tradition, he can marry his fiancées only after they have fallen pregnant, proving they can bear heirs. Until then, they are termed liphovela, or "brides".

Titles and styles

  • 19 April 1968 – 25 April 1986: His Royal Highness Prince Makhosetive of Swaziland
  • 25 April 1986 – present: His Majesty The Ngwenyama (King) of Swaziland

Reed Dance

King Mswati at the Reed Dance 2006

The Reed Dance is a traditional opportunity for Swaziland's maidens to pay tribute to the Queen Mother. Although the King has used the occasion to choose wives a few times, the ceremony is not about him primarily. The king's own children partake in this event.

The annual Umhlanga (Reed) Dance is an assembly of about 20,000 young maidens (which rechead 80 000 in 2012 [3] ) and led by Inkhosatana Sikhanyiso Sikhanyiso Dlamini. They bring tall (4 m) reeds to present to the Queen Mother. These reeds are then used to build windbreaks around the Queen Mother's residence. The Reed Dance usually lasts for a week and the king attends only the last day as a sign of respect to his mother. He also uses the occasion to thank the young girls who have traveled long distances to attend the event by slaughtering cattle and presenting them with a feast before they return home.


Mswati's reign has brought some changes in the government and political transformation. However, critics such as the People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO)[4] believe that these changes are solely aimed at strengthening and perpetuating the traditional order.[5]

The king faced substantial criticism[by whom?] for his handling of the HIV/AIDS crisis. In 2000, he announced in a parliamentary debate that all HIV-positive people should be "sterilized and branded".[6]

His attendance at the May 2012 Sovereign Monarchs lunch, to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, caused some controversy, given criticisms of his regime’s human rights record.[7]


Mswati has been criticized for his lifestyle, especially by the media.[8] Following criticism of his purchase of luxury cars, including a $500,000 DaimlerChrysler's flagship Maybach 62 luxury automobile, he banned the photography of his vehicles.[9] According to the former CEO of the Office of the king, the purchases were personally funded and the king of Swaziland earns a high salary as Head of State, has investments within and outside the country and owns an unspecified amount of shares in different companies within Swaziland[citation needed].

According to the Forbes 2009 list of the World's 15 Richest Royals (in which he placed last), king Mswati is worth a reported $200 Million USD.[10]

In January 2004 the Times of Swaziland reported that the king requested his government to spend about $15-million to redecorate three main palaces and build others for each of his 11 wives.[11] The Prime Minister's Office issued a press statement saying the article in the Times of Swaziland was "reckless and untrue" and that the proposal was for the construction of 5 State Houses, not Palaces, and the cost was only E19.9 million.[12] Later that year the go-ahead was given to build five new palaces at a cost of more than $4-million out of public funds.[13]

In August 2008, Swazi scouts marched through the capital protesting against the cost of a shopping spree taken abroad by nine of the King's thirteen wives. The demonstration was organized by Positive Living, a non-governmental organization for Swazi women living with AIDS.[14]

LaMahlangu controversy

According to accusations by Amnesty International, Zena Mahlangu, a high school student, disappeared from her school in October 2002. Her mother, Lindiwe Dlamini, learned that her daughter had been taken by two men, Qethuka Sgombeni Dlamini and Tulujani Sikhondze, and she reported the matter to the police. Some time later, she was told that her daughter was at Ludzidzini Royal Village and was being prepared to be the next wife of the king.[15] She demanded that her daughter be returned to her custody, and threatened to sue.

Among the criteria for a future Inkhosikati, the girl must not be disabled, or a twin; Liphovela LaMahlangu was the other half of a brother-sister twin set.[16] Zena was 18 and had agreed to be taken by the King, but remained silent. The matter went to the High Court, but Swaziland's Attorney-General Phesheya Dlamini intervened.[17] She has since had two children, and formally became the king's wife in 2010.[18]


  1. Some sources indicate he was born in 1970
  2. Bearak, Barry. "In Destitute Swaziland, Leader Lives Royally," New York Times. 6 September 2008.
  3. Simelane, Hamilton Sipho. (2005). "Swaziland: Reign of Mswati III," in Encyclopedia of African History, p. 1528.
  4. [1]
  5. [2]
  6. Held, David; Anthony G. McGrew (2002). "HIV/AIDS". Governing globalization: power, authority and global governance. Anthony G. McGrew. Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 121. ISBN 0-7456-2734-X, 9780745627342. Retrieved 22 Oct 2009.
  7. Daily Telegraph 18 May 2012
  8. King Mswati is Bankrupting Swaziland: Mornachy not for Africa!, Ole Africa
  9. Now only Mswati owns a Maybach!, City Press, 25 January 2009
  10. Serafin, Tatiana (17 June 2009). "The World's Richest Royals". Forbes.
  11. "king needs R100m for palaces for 13 wives". The Argus (South Africa). 13 April 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-13.
  12. "The Issue of "E1 Million Spent on Princess Sikhanyiso" and The Issue of "Building" Royal Palaces by Swaziland Government". Prime Ministers Office. 26 January 2004.[dead link]
  13. "Swazi king gets go ahead for wives' palaces". Independent Online. 25 July 2004.
  14. "Swazi anger at royal wives' trip," BBC News. 21 August 2008.
  15. Amnesty International: "Swaziland: Human rights at risk in a climate of political and legal uncertainty,"Index No. AFR 55/004/2004. 29 July 2004.
  16. Wayua, Muli. "A king, his culture, his wives," Daily Nation (Nairobi, Kenya). 7 December 2002.
  17. "Swaziland's Royal Bridal Mess," CBS News. 4 November 2002.
  18. " Uganda: Swaziland's King Mswati Iii Weds Again". 27 November 2010.