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Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Families of girls killed at Swaziland Reed Dance get no financial compensation

The families of ten girls, mostly aged 11 to 16, who were killed in a road accident while being transported on the back of a truck ‘like cattle’ during the Reed Dance for King Mswati III in 2015 have received no financial compensation for their death.

The Sincephetelo Motor Vehicle Accidents Fund (SMVAF) will not make pay-outs because the girls had no dependents.

The accident happened when the girls were going to Ludzidzini Royal Residence after cutting reed for the kingdom’s absolute monarch.

The news of the non-payment was broken by the Times of Swaziland. It reported the SMVAF guarantees no compensation for deceased people, other than funeral benefits, if they had no source of income or dependants at the time of their death.

The deaths caused outrage in August 2015. The exact number of deaths in the incident is disputed. The Swazi Government said 13 people, including children and adults, died but there was widespread disbelief in Swaziland that the death toll was so low. The Swaziland Solidarity Network, a prodemocracy group banned in Swaziland, citing the Swaziland Defence Force as a source, put the figure of deaths at 38. It later revised this figure to 65, citing medical officials as a source.

The official figures included an 11-year-old girl and seven girls aged 16 or under.

They died when they were loaded up onto the back of a truck. It was involved in a road collision on 28 August 2015. They were taking part in the annual Reed Dance or Umhlanga where they were expected to be among thousands of ‘virgins’ to dance in front of the King.

King Mswati came in for heavy criticism after the crash because journalists were prevented from reporting the event. King Mswati rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch and media are heavily restricted in his kingdom.

Thousands of young girls from across Swaziland were forced to travel in trucks standing up  in the open back cheek-by-jowl. There was no space to sit down or even to turn around. Photographs show that at least sixty children were squashed onto the back of a single truck. Many of the trucks that transported the girls were usually used to move building materials.

Young girls travel this way every year to attend the Reed Dance where they are expected to dance topless in front of King Mswati. Media in Swaziland routinely describe the girls as ‘virgins’ or ‘maidens.’ The King was 46 years old at the time of the accident.

Media reports of the accident were inconsistent, but it was generally agreed that the children were thrown from the back of the truck when it was involved in a collision. Police reported that not all the girls died on the spot. International media reported that journalists in Swaziland were stopped from gathering information about the accident.


(Below) A photograph issued by Reuters in 2015. The caption reads ‘Maidens riding in the back of a dump truck arrive before the last day of the Reed Dance at the Ludzidzini royal palace in Swaziland.’


See also

‘Cover-up on Swazi Reed Dance deaths’


Dead girls are victims, not heroes


Dead girls transported like cattle



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