An ordinary man with a passion for basketball has found his way into the heart of King Mswati III’s eldest daughter, Princess Sikhanyiso (30), but he must dig deep in his pockets to marry her.Mzwakhe Phiri (30) may have to part with at least 300 head of cattle for the princess’ hand in marriage, provided the royal family agrees to his request.The demand for this eye-watering number of cattle prompted Prince Mnikwa Dlamini, the chief of Hhohho near Pigg’s Peak, to ask his subjects to donate cattle to enable Phiri to marry the love of his life.City Press also understands that the Malawian High Commission was approached to ask Swaziland-based Malawians to contribute to the hefty lobola demand.But Malawian consul Harris Kamanga flatly denied any claims of lobola crowdfunding.Phiri was born in Swaziland, but his late grandfather came from Msenga in Malawi. His father, who died in 2009, was also born in Swaziland. According to Swazi culture academic, Joyce Sukumane of Unisa, the fact that Phiri was not of royal blood would not hinder the marriage.Phiri will initially need to present 50 head of cattle to the Swazi monarch to open negotiations for his daughter’s hand, as a sign of respect, before paying the rest of the lobola, which the king is yet to determine.Marrying a Swazi royal family member is an expensive business. President Jacob Zuma’s nephew, Khulubuse Zuma, parted with 100 head of cattle for the king’s niece, Funisiwe, in 2013.Phiri, from the village of Luhhumaneni, is a former professional basketball player who played in Mozambique, Italy and Finland. Today he is a basketball coach and fitness instructor, and the owner of Dunkylaine Basketball Academy in Mbabane. His academy’s slogan is: “Finish what you started”. Phiri spoke freely of his dreams to produce Swaziland’s finest basketballers, but was coy on the issue of marriage.“I’m not ready to marry now,” he said. He did not respond when told his intention to marry the princess was public knowledge.“I will respond to your questions on WhatsApp,” he promised, but did not do so.Pictures showing Princess Sikhanyiso sneaking into Luhhumaneni and meeting Phiri’s family tell their own different story. Phiri is also said to be close to the royal family, as other pictures show.Princess Sikhanyiso is King Mswati III’s eldest daughter from his first wife, Inkhosikati LaMbikiza (Sibonelo Mngomezulu). She studied in the UK, the US and Australia and holds a master’s degree in digital communication.Considered a rebel, she dabbles in rap music and has made controversial comments about Swaziland’s patriarchal culture.Princess Sikhanyiso usually leads bare-breasted maidens during the annual reed dance, but during her last reed dance appearance in 2015, she covered her thighs with a kanga. Last year she was conspicuously absent.Nobody wants to comment on any pending marriage since Swazi media reported on it late last month.“Phiri is a Swazi national and has nothing to do with Malawi,” Kamanga said, “I saw the story in the papers myself, but I’m not even sure if the marriage is on or off.” A woman at Prince Mnikwa’s home denied City Press access to the chief on Friday, saying: “The prince was taken by surprise when the issue was published even before he had time to deliberate.“Word from the king is that he must say nothing about this matter. People spoke about this to the newspapers when the prince was sick. He was really surprised.”King Mswati III’s brother, Prince Thumbumuzi, whom Prince Mnikwa reportedly asked to facilitate lobola negotiations, also declined to comment.“I haven’t seen the chief yet, but what I will request from you is to slow down a little bit. This is a sensitive issue and we’re waiting for the king to give us a sense of direction,” the prince said.Sukumane said that, according to Swazi culture, the king did not discriminate against commoners if they wanted to marry his daughters. “However, the 300 cattle in lobola will make King Sobhuza [Mswati III’s father] turn in his grave. "It is not Swazi culture to bankrupt someone who wants to pay lobola. Lobola is symbolic, and has spiritual and social dimensions,” Sukumane said. Sukumane also frowned on crowdfunding initiatives to pay Phiri’s lobola and said, in Swazi culture, a man was not expected to finish paying.