Swaziland lawmakers urged to avoid divorce to respect king with 13 wives

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 December, 2013, 6:24am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 December, 2013, 6:24am


Swaziland's Senate chief said lawmakers should not divorce to avoid embarrassing the country's polygamous king, who has declared that only death can undo marriages.

Gelane Zwane, leader of the upper house in Africa's last absolute monarchy, said lawmakers should set a good example to young people.

She also urged women lawmakers not to let their position make them "disrespectful" to their husbands - while telling men to keep their eyes off women colleagues' cleavages.

The edict - which Zwane said applied particularly to women - came after King Mswati III said this year that only death could undo a traditional union, even though Swazi culture allows marriages to be terminated.

"Once people become legislators they lose their private lives," she said. "We discourage divorce because politicians should behave in a moral way to leave a positive legacy."

Zwane issued the edict at a recent workshop for lawmakers.

Parliamentarians who had already started divorce proceedings were to hold off until after their term ended in 2018, she said, adding that there was a "misconception that when women occupy political positions they then become disrespectful and divorce their husbands".

She has therefore reminded lawmakers, especially female ones, "that when in this position, being embroiled in messy divorce disputes embarrasses the appointing authority", referring to the king.

Mswati, 45, has been married 13 times, although three wives have left the royal household in recent years.

In September he became engaged to Sindiswa Dlamini, 18, who will become his 14th wife once she falls pregnant.

Zwane said she also wanted to dissuade men - who account for the bulk of Swaziland's 95 lawmakers - from forming relationships with women parliamentary officials.

"There are many beautiful ladies working here in Parliament, but don't be tempted to be intimate with them.

"Even if you see their cleavage, treat them like colleagues," Zwane said.

Swaziland remains one of the world's poorest countries, though its monarch is said to be worth around US$200 million.