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Swazi king urged to call off the Reed Dance

The Swazi government hasn’t released an official number & Mswati is still expected to choose a new wife today.

FILE: Swazi girls dance and sing as they walk to the Royal palace two day ahead of the traditional reed dance on 28 August, 2015 on a farm in the outskirts of Luve, Swaziland. Reed Dance ceremony is an annual Swazi cultural event where tens of thousands of Swazi girls travel from the various chiefdoms to the Ludzidzini Royal Village to participate in the eight-day event. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - The Swaziland Solidarity Network has called on King Mswati III to show some respect to the bereaved families of 65 girls who were killed in an accident and cancel this year's Reed Dance festival.

The large group were being transported on the back of a flatbed truck to the festival on Friday.

The network says the truck crashed into the back of a car on the Mbabane-Manzini highway killing 38 girls on the scene.

It says 27 others later died in hospital.

The Swazi government has not yet released an official number and the king is still expected to choose a new wife today.

The network's Lucky Lukhele said, "If he still has a little bit of that moral fibre in him... He must sit down and be a father for the first time in his life and cancel this thing. Even if he were to pick one wife today or tomorrow he must cancel that or postpone to next year."

Lukhele added that the ceremony's history is fraught with lies and cover ups and has called for two days of mourning.

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 Mswati III, Africa's last absolute monarch.

The festival is meant to celebrate womanhood and virginity.

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.