MBABANE, Swaziland (AP) – The king’s eldest daughter deserved the beating she received from a household official when he caught her holding a drinking party during the monarch’s annual bride-choosing festivities, a member of the royal family was quoted Thursday as saying.

“It was within the traditional overseer’s right to discipline anyone – including princesses – who wanted to spoil the important ceremony,” Jim Gama, governor of the queen mother’s residence, was quoted as saying Thursday in the Times of Swaziland newspaper. “Swazi culture allows any parent to discipline any child for an unruly behavior in public.”

Princess Sikhanyiso has long raised eyebrows in Africa’s last absolute monarchy for flouting tradition with her Western-style dress.

On Aug. 26, the official overseer of traditional affairs, Ntfonjeni Dlamini, stumbled across a party hosted by the 17-year-old that featured loud music and alcoholic drinks. Dlamini told state-radio that he was so shocked, he beat the princess on her thighs with a stick as she fled.

The incident cast a pall over the annual reed dance festivities, a rite of spring at which thousands of girls gather reeds to build a wind break for Queen Mother Ntombi Thwala and dance before King Mswati III. According to tradition, Mswati is meant to select a bride at the festivities that culminated Monday.

“Princess Sikhanyiso received what she had bargained for by turning such an important event into a social gathering,” Prince Jahamnyama, one of Mswati’s elder brothers, was quoted as saying.

Princess Sikhanyiso said the party was a private event to celebrate the end of a chastity decree.

In 2001, Mswati temporarily revived the ancient rite of “umchwasho,” which bans sexual relations for girls younger than 18 in a bid to fight AIDS, which is at crisis levels in Swaziland. But the rite – symbolized by the wearing of woolen tassels – was ridiculed as old-fashioned and unfairly focused on girls. Days before the reed dance, the king announced he was ending the ban a year early.

Mswati, who has already has 12 wives, one bride-to-be and 27 children, is no stranger to controversy himself.

He has come under international pressure for resisting reforms to introduce more democracy in his tiny kingdom. His lavish lifestyle, including indulging a love of expensive cars, contrasts with the absolute poverty of most of his subjects.


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