Umemulo: Zuma gives blessing to daughter in ritual coming of age

2011-04-22 00:00

CASH, blankets and expensively wrapped gifts were some of the items given to Phumzile and Duduzile Zuma, the daughters of President Jacob Zuma, at their umemulo ceremony in their homestead in Nkandla yesterday.

The umemulo is a rite of passage for unmarried young women. It is a sign to the community that the father recognises that his daughter is now an adult and that any prospective husband wanting to ask for the daughters hand in marriage may now approach.

During the ceremony the women who will participate leave home at the break of dawn and stay at a nearby river singing and dancing with other young women. They continue this until late in the day when they are called back home to sing and perform traditional dance for the community.

They are showered with gifts, mostly blankets. And the women who are being acknowledged as adults will carry a spear given to them by the father as a sign that they are adult.

During the dance the women will stab the spear into the ground in front of any man, and that man must put money on the women’s head.

Duduzile’s umemulo came a few days before her marriage to businessman Lonwabo Sambudla. They are reportedly getting married this weekend in the Eastern Cape.

The discreet ceremony, which started at about 3 pm, attracted very few people compared to the crowds who normally throng Nkandla when the president is hosting events.

More than 300 people were present, most of them locals. The in-laws accompanying Sambudla were also present.

The notable political faces at the event were Transport Minister Sbu Ndebele who arrived by helicopter, and Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana DlaminiZuma, who is the president’s former wife.

The crowd broke into wild cheers when Zuma broke into traditional male dance with a stick.

As Duduzile stabbed the spear in front of various men, mostly including her family members and in-laws, one community members commented,

“When she gets married, she will build a strong home for her family as the spear has not fallen once. “If the spear fell, she would be worried as that meant her marriage would not last.”

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