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Prince Charles opens water project in Swaziland

October 30, 1997

GUNDVWINI, Swaziland (AP) _ Women in this Swaziland mountain village used to walk an hour each way to fetch drinking water, jugs balanced delicately on their heads as they trudged back and forth.

Now, they don’t even have to leave the village.

Prince Charles christened a new pipeline Thursday that delivers water directly to Gundvwini and gives its 6,000 residents more time to earn money by weaving mats and molding clay pots.

``Water means health,″ said Beauty Dlamini, a 41-year-old mother. ``Because of the water, we can make things to sell.″

The water project was completed with $58,310 in British funding and some Swaziland money as well. Before crews built the 25-mile pipeline and 55 taps to the area, villagers had to dig in a dried river bed during times of little rain.

``I’m a bit disappointed that it isn’t beer,″ Charles quipped as he watched water pouring from a pipe sticking out of the ground.

Three local officials and the British High Commissioner, John Doble, drank a glass of the yellow-tinged water, but Charles didn’t.

The prince is on his first official overseas visit since the Aug. 31 death of his ex-wife Princess Diana in a Paris car crash.

Women of the village slaughtered two cows and 11 chickens to feed more than 300 people at Thursday’s ceremony and bare-breasted girls danced for the prince under a hot sun.

Charles and other members of his delegation, however, ate cakes and drank canned beverages brought in for them.

Later, Charles visited a nearby village and stepped into the hut of local resident Sibongile Mubuza, 74. He posed for photos with her, commenting: ``This will ruin your reputation.″

On Wednesday night, speaking at a state banquet in honor of the prince’s visit, King Mswati III thanked Britain for financing the project, saying water was precious to the mostly agrarian Swazi society.

The king, under fire from activists seeking democratic reforms to end his absolute monarchy, said steps were being taken to ``create a constitution that reflects the views of the whole nation.″

The prince later flew to Lesotho for the second-leg of his three-nation African tour. Charles was to attend Friday’s coronation of King Letsie III in the sports stadium in Maseru, the capital of the small mountain country surrounded by South Africa.

One of Charles’ sons, Prince Harry, was traveling with his father. During his Charles’ stays in Swaziland and Lesotho, Harry, 13, and a schoolmate have been on a short safari in an undisclosed area.

Charles and Harry plan to attend a Spice Girls charity concert Saturday in South Africa.

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