All systems go for reed dance
Durban - Hawkers who will be selling refreshments at the "reed dance" taking place at KwaNongoma in northern KwaZulu-Natal this weekend have started setting up, a spokesperson said on Friday.
"The maidens have not arrived; we are anticipating that they will be arriving later today [Friday]. Hawkers selling food, drinks and snacks have started setting up their merchandise at the palace," KwaZulu-Natal arts and culture MEC Weziwe Thusi's spokesperson Vukani Mbhele said.
On Friday, about 26 000 maidens will arrive in 74 buses from across KwaZulu-Natal to take part in the reed dance held at Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini's palace, eNyokeni.
President Jacob Zuma is scheduled to also attend the event.
The annual reed dance festival was introduced by King Shaka decades ago to promote respect for women and virginity.
"It's all systems go for the reed dance. We are satisfied with all the plans in place. We will have a smooth and successful event," Mbhele said.
Bands with contact numbers
The maidens would have different coloured bands around their wrists containing contact numbers of parents or district leaders.
SA Police Service Colonel Jay Naicker said there would be enough police to monitor and exercise crowd control.
"We cannot say how many police will be deployed for security reasons, but police will be dealing with crowd control," he said.
Last year, one maiden died and several others were injured in a stampede.
Naicker said police would not tolerate any public drinking by spectators at the reed dance.
The annual event draws maidens from across the province, who present the king with a reed symbolising their purity on Saturday.
On the second day of the festival, there will be colourful displays of different dances by the maidens.