Not less than 38 virgins have been killed in an auto crash on their way to the festival where the Swaziland King chooses his wives.
The virgins were on their way to an age-old festival in Swaziland which permits the king to choose a new bride every year in August. The ceremony is called the Swazi Reed Dance Festival.
At this event, it is alleged that the king parades and tests topless under-aged virgin girls publicly to ascertain that they are still virgins. However,the real facts about this tradition are usually distorted.
According to Times of Swaziland, dozens of girls were killed during the weekend, as they travelled to the traditional festival where the King of Swaziland was to pick a new bride from topless,dancing virgins.
An 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. About 20 survivors were being treated at a local hospital.
There is speculation that the authorities in Swaziland were trying to cover up the accident from human rights groups. It was alleged by the Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN) that the police attempted to discourage media reports on the deaths.
Photographers were restricted from the scene for security reasons, according to a Swazi journalist. Reporters described the scene as chaotic, 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.”
King Mswat III, 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 centre Manzini, Mswat promised that the affected families would be compensated, adding that investigation into the accident was ongoing.
It would be noted that King Mswati is often criticised in the international media and on the internet for his lavish lifestyle. Many are distraught at the fact that he has a private jet, fleets of BMW and Mercedes-Benz cars and 13 palaces, regularly travelling across the world in an opulent style; yet most of the people of his kingdom live in abject poverty on less than two US dollars per day.