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Swazi Culture

Succession In Swazi Kingship

By Richard M. Patricks, SNTC. July 2000.

No king can appoint his successor. Swazi customary law regarding succession to kingship states: "inkhosi yinkhosi ngenina" - "a king is king through his mother". When a king is dead, the royal family meets to decide which of his wives shall be "Great Wife" and "iNdlovukazi" (she-elephant I Queen Mother). The son of this "Great Wife" will automatically become the next king.

To qualify, the "Great Wife" must:
A. have only one son.
(An exception was made for Labotsibeni Mdluli, mother of King Bhunu, and grandmother of Sobhuza II. She had three sons, but her character was so strong that the royal council agreed that she must become Ndlovukazi.)
B. be of good character, come from a family of good stock
C. must NOT be a ritual wife (see below) (i.e. the eldest son is NEVER the heir.)
D. must NOT be a Nkhosi-Dlamini.
(Unlike other Swazis, Swazi kings may take wives of their own surname. Sobhuza had eleven Dlamini wives.)

The crown prince can only be installed as king after the late king's wives have gone through a mourning period of at least two years.

A Swazi king's first two wives are chosen for him by the national councillors. These two wives have special functions in rituals, and their sons can never claim kingship.
The first wife must be from the MATSEBULA clan.
The second wife must be from the MOTSA clan.
After that, a king is free to take wives as he pleases.

Tourist literature often states "The King takes a new wife every year at the Reed Dance." He is NOT obliged to do this, but of course notices girls at the Dance and MAY arrange for a discreet meeting to see if they are suitable, as happened in August 1999.

King Mswati Ill currently has seven wives, twelve children, and one fiancee (" li-phovela, plural: ema-phovela).

A Swazi King places his wives in different Royal Villages around the country.

Sobhuza II's wives and children

Tourist literature often states "100 (or 200) wives and 600 children."

However, a list of wives & children compiled by this writer in 1986, shows:
King Sobhuza II (1899 - 1982) married 70 wives, who gave him 210 children between 1920 and 1970 (i.e. three children per wife, on average). About 180 children survived infancy, and ninety seven sons and daughters are alive today (July 2000).

Sobhuza 's grandchildren (list not yet complete): over 1,000.

Swazi Culture: General
The Incwala Or Kingship Ceremony
The Umhlanga Or Reed Dance

Traditional Attire
The Swazi Homestead - Umuti | The Headman - Umnumzane
The Sangoma and the Inyanga | Traditional Food
Indlamu | Sibhaca Dance | The Swazi Warrior
Some Swazi Words


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