No fewer than 38 virgins have been killed in an auto crash on their way to the festival where Swaziland King chooses wives.
It is gathered that a long time tradition in Swaziland (Swazi) permits the King, Mswati to choose a new bride every year, in August, in the Swazi Reed Dance Festival where the King parades and tests half-naked under aged virgin girls publicly to ascertain that their virginity was still intact.
The Sherburne-educated king is known to pick his wives from the girls who perform for him at the traditional dance, a tribute to the queen mother. The King had chosen a 19-year-old virgin from the dancing maidens last year August, who became his 14th wife.
Times of Swaziland reports that dozens of girls and young women were killed during the weekend, as they travelled to the traditional festival where the King of Swaziland was to pick a new bride from thousands of topless, dancing virgins.
“When the open-topped truck collided with another vehicle, before being hit by a second truck as it travelled along a motorway between the Swazi cities of Mbabane and Manzini earlier this weekend, at least 38 girls who were to partake in the annual event, lost their lives,” according to the report, “and about 20 survivors were being treated.”
As the story goes, the authorities in Swaziland are being accused of trying to cover up the accident from human rights group.
The Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN) claimed the police attempted to discourage media report on the deaths.
Photographers were however, restricted from the scene according to Swazi journalist, for security reasons, but reports on the tragedy, described the scene as chaoic, as parents began to arrive at the Raleigh Fitkin Memorial Hospital, in Manzini.
One of the survivors, Siphelele Sigudla, 18, told newsmen: “We were about 50 on board the first truck that smashed into the Toyota van.”
The SSN has called on the royal family to reconsider going ahead with the festival, which sees about 40,000 participating in the eight-day ceremony.
“We hope that the families of the deceased girls will hold the royal family accountable for the deaths of their children,” the SSN group said in a statement, as it alleged a similar incident had been covered up previously.
“The least that the royal family can do at this moment is to cancel this year’s reed dance.”
The King in his condolence statement, said: “We all have heard about the dark cloud that has befallen the ‘imbali,” he said, using the Swati language word for flower, used to refer to the groups of women dancers.
Speaking at the opening of an international trade fair in Swaziland’s economic center Manzini, he promised that the affected families would be compensated; adding that investigation into the accident was ongoing. [myad]