Reed dancers sing ‘Mshini wami’

2008-09-14 00:00

Hundreds of maidens erupted into Jacob Zuma’s trademark song Mshini wami when the ANC president made a surprise appearance at the AmaZulu Royal Reed Dance ceremony in KwaNongoma, northern KwaZulu-Natal, on Saturday.

Zuma arrived late after all the other dignitaries, including King Goodwill Zwelithini and the IFP president Mangosuthu Buthelezi, had delivered their speeches for the event.

The teenagers who gathered at a soccer field near the Enyokeni Royal Palace to listen to motivational talks on various topics were among more than 25 000 who participated in the event.

Some of the maidens appeared to be younger than the age limit placed on the participation of women, which spokesman for the Arts and Culture Department Vukani Mbele said was 16.

Most journalists had hoped that the speakers would touch on Zuma’s success in his Pietermaritzburg High Court application against the National Prosecuting Authority on Friday, but no one, including Zuma himself, said anything about the case.

Instead, speakers dwelled on advising the maidens about the importance of taking care of themselves by avoiding sex before marriage.

“Ever since I revived the [Reed Dance] ceremony in 1984, I have received lots of support. I appeal to you [the maidens] as my first guests to please hold on to the tradition,” said the king.

Among the dignitaries were King Alfas of the Ovambo nation in Namibia.

The Zulu king criticised the media for what he called exaggeration and sensationalising of his request to the girls not to expose their bottoms or private parts during the ceremony.

However, many maidens were seen wearing short skirts that exposed their bottoms. This resulted in elder women ordering men not to stand behind the girls.

The king said at one stage he had also planned to have the young boys going through a virginity testing process and for that he raised R300 000 to have people trained to do the testing. But that initiative failed as a result of the “wildness of the young men, who spend most of the time consuming alcohol”.

During a speech, Zululand District Mayor Zanele Magwaza-Msibi appealed to the king to stop the government from putting an end to the virginity testing.

However, KwaZulu-Natal Arts and Culture MEC Weziwe Thusi, who was the MC for the event, quickly told Magwaza-Msibi that no one wants to end the virginity testing, but government wants it to be conducted through following the correct procedures.

There were a number of foreign tourists present, including journalists.

Asahi Shimbun, who is a Japanese daily newspaper correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya, said that although the ceremony is not well known in Japan, he thought it was important for him to cover it.

“Since I knew that it is taking place, I decided to come and cover it.

“It is a very photogenic event,” he said.

Also attending was Stephan van der Kolk from Holland and his seven friends.

“We have been in the country for eight months. I learnt about the event from the Lonely Planet Travel Guide book …” said Van der Kolk.

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