The government of eSwatini on Tuesday angrily denied viral online reports that King Mswati III, Africa’s last absolute monarch who has 14 wives, had ordered men to have at least two marriages or face jail.
The story, carried by the Zambian Observer and picked up by several other online publications, said that Swazi men would have to marry several wives starting from June.
How many wives does King Mswati have?
As well as 14 wives, King Mswati has more than 25 children and a reputation for lavish spending while 63 percent of his 1.3 million subjects in the kingdom formerly known as Swaziland live in poverty.
The story, first published on Monday, said the government would sponsor marriage ceremonies and offer houses to men who entered into polygamous marriages.
It said the king “has declared in… Swaziland that men will from June 2019 be required to marry at least two or more wives or be jailed if they fail to do so”.
No, eSwatini isn’t forcing people into polygamy
Government spokesman Percy Simelane called the story “malicious” and “poisonous”. Simelane said:
“His Majesty has not made any pronouncement to that effect as it has never been an issue raised by the people. He said the story was “not only an insult to the monarchy and the culture of eSwatini but a disgrace to journalism”.
The government has demanded that the newspaper retract its story. Needless to say, social media users got very giddy over the news and “Swaziland” – the name eSwatini used to go by – was a top trend on South African Twitter earlier in the week.
However, for those lonely souls dreaming of a scenario too good to be true, reality has kicked in once again. It’s the general rule of thumb for “fake news”, too – if it’s the type of headline that makes you shake your head in disbelief, then keep those suspicions raised – it may require further investigation.
King Mswati of Eswatini (Swaziland) has decreed all men must marry 2 or more women starting next month or be jailed – according to newspapers like the Zambian Observer that are igniting the social media. Sorry to spoil the party but there is no such decree and he hasn't said that pic.twitter.com/uaHGQW8sb8
— James Hall (@hallaboutafrica) May 13, 2019