Ezulwini, Swaziland

  • Date
  • 19 July 2000

Swaziland, the smallest country in the Southern Hemisphere, is one of the few remaining absolute monarchies in the world. Lobamba, the royal village, sits in naked bush country, but none of the royal buildings are open to the public.

A local told me the 32 year-old king has seven wives, seven children and two girlfriends. The king lives with his first wife and their children in the Royal Palace. Another four wives and their children live in the Queen Mother’s Palace, and the third palace houses the other two wives, their children and all the wives and children of the former king.

The first wife of the king is not allowed to leave Swaziland, since she is the “cornerstone of the country at all times”. Rumor says the first wife traveled with her husband out of the country earlier this year and, during this time, floods ravished the country. People still blame the first wife for the horrific weather and resulting dire consequences.

I also learned that when a Swazi king dies, all the unmarried women must shave their heads out of respect, and the married women “sharpen a spear” and trim their hair. Swazi people make up 97 percent of the population of about one million. A local explains, “This is why people get along unlike South Africa, which has more than 15 languages and scores of clans all trying to one-up the other”.