More than a dozen of virgin girls and young women died as they traveled to the traditional festival where the King of Swaziland is known to pick a new bride from thousands of topless, dancing virgins.
This tragic accident, which happened along the MR3 Highway, Mahhala, involved two trucks, which were ferrying maidens and a sedan.
According to Times of Swaziland, at least 38 of them died when the open-topped truck collided with another vehicle, before being hit by a second truck as it traveled along a motorway between the Swazi cities of Mbabane and Manzini on Friday afternoon.
The girls were all taking part in the Swazi Reed Dance Festival, an annual event which sees tens of thousands of unmarried girls – or ‘maidens’ – perform for King Mswati III.
Last year, he plucked a 19-year-old virgin from the dancing maidens, who became his 14th wife.
Eye-witnesses reveal that traffic police officers pulled-over a Toyota van along the highway and that was when the first truck failed to avoid hitting the car as it smashed into the Toyota’s rear. This caused the pile up as the second truck crashed onto the truck which also had the excited maidens on board.
One of the maidens who survived the accident, in an interview with the Swazi News, confirmed the account of some of the witnesses.
“We were about 50 on board the first truck that smashed into the Toyota van and was crashed from the rear by the other truck which was driving behind ours,” Siphelele Sigudla (18) said.
Rights group The Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN) has now called on the royal family to reconsider going ahead with the festival, which sees about 40,000 participating in the eight-day ceremony.
The girls and young women sing and dance, often bare-breasted, as they bring reeds to reinforce the windbreak around the royal residence, a government website said.
‘We hope that the families of the deceased girls will hold the royal family accountable for the deaths of their children,’ the group said in a statement, as it alleged a similar incident had been covered up previously.’The least that the royal family can do at this moment is to cancel this year’s reed dance.’
But the King has already sent his condolences.
‘We all have heard about the dark cloud that has befallen the ‘imbali,” he said, using the Swati language word for flower, used to refer to the groups of women dancers.
He promised that the affected families would be compensated.