A rights organisation in Swaziland has called on King Mswati III to cancel the Reed Dance due to take place on Sunday (30 August 2015) and Monday out of respect for the dozens of girls and young women who were reportedly killed in a truck accident on the way to the celebration.
The Swaziland Solidarity Network (SNN), which is banned in the kingdom where King Mswati rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, made the call in a statement after it was reported at least 38 people were killed in a crash along the Mbabane to Manzini highway.
The girls and young women were among 90,000 ‘maidens’ who were travelling to take part in the annual Reed Dance at which women and girls described as ‘virgins’ dance half-naked in front of the King.
The SSN said 38 people had been killed and 20 seriously injured in the accident on Friday. The dead and injured had reportedly been travelling on the open back of a truck.
In a statement the SSN said, ‘The least that the Royal Family can do at this moment is to cancel this year’s Reed Dance and admit its responsibility in this horrific accident by helping these families bury their children.’
The SSN said ‘inside sources’ had reported that media in Swaziland which is heavily censored had been ‘barred from reporting extensively on this accident’.
It said, ‘What saddens our network is the fact that the loss of life was avoidable. To begin with, carrying people in trucks is against traffic laws. Moreover, the drivers of these trucks clearly did not have any concern for the human lives they were carrying: They were clearly negligent.
‘This is not the first incident where young girls have been injured on royal assignments; our network once reported how a truck accident was concealed by the Royal Family by falsely claiming that unknown people had thrown rocks at a truck full of young girls.
‘We hope that the families of the deceased girls will hold the Royal Family accountable for the deaths of their children.’
International media reported on Saturday (29 August 2015) that 38 people had died but social media in Swaziland was awash with speculation that the figure might be much higher. There was a general feeling that the regime of King Mswati could not be trusted to tell the truth on the number of deaths as this would reflect badly on the King.
Late on Saturday, Eyewitness News in South Africa reported the death toll had risen to 65.
SWAZI REED DANCE: ILLEGAL WHIPPINGS