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Outrage mounts over the deaths of young Swazi girls

The Swaziland Solidarity Network says the Reed Dance’s history is fraught with lies and cover ups.

FILE: Swaziland's King Mswati III. Picture: GCIS.

JOHANNESBURG - The deaths of scores of girls in Swaziland has sparked outrage this morning with questions around why the large group was being transported on a flatbed truck and calls for the Reed Dance to be shelved.

The Swaziland Solidarity Network says 38 girls died when the truck crashed into a car on the Mbabane in Manzini highway on Friday.

Another 27 later died in hospital however the Swazi government is yet to release an official death toll.

The group had been travelling to the annual Reed Dance where King Mswati III is due to select a new wife.

The network's Lucky Lukhele says the ceremony's history is fraught with lies and cover ups.

"Last year the Swazi government went on to lie publicly saying one of the trucks was stormed by unknown sources but it turned out the very same lorry was involved in an accident and the drivers were drunk."

Lukhele has also called for two days of mourning.

It's understood police and the local media have been barred from reporting on the incident. The network says the Swazi government must be held accountable.

LISTEN: Lucky Lukhele calls for the Reed Dance to be scrapped.

REED DANCE HISTORY

The Umhlanga Reed Dance has in the past involved bare-breasted young Swazi women dancing and singing in beaded mini-skirts to catch the eye of King Mswati III, Africa's last absolute monarch.

The festival, meant to celebrate womanhood and virginity, is due to start on Saturday.

Thousands of young women descend on the royal residence from all over the nation every year, but in a country where relatively few families own vehicles and where infrastructure is poor, many are squeezed onto open trucks.