Teens told to cover up for dance

2008-09-12 00:00

The time of the Amazulu Reed Dance, better known as Umkhozi womhlanga, held at King Goodwill Zwelithini’s Enyokeni Royal Palace in KwaNongoma in northern KwaZulu-Natal, has come again.

But the preparations for this year’s event, which started today, have been met with a number of challenges from the government’s amended Children’s Act, several amakhosi and Zwelithini himself.

Almost everyone who has an interest in the spectacular annual event has been waiting to see how different it will be from previous ones, as Zwelithini made the demand that the thousands of young maidens, who started flocking to the palace from yesterday evening, cover certain parts of their bodies.

In addition, the Children’s Act was recently amended to criminalise virginity testing if it is applied to girls under the age of 16. Virginity testing is an integral part of the maidens’ preparation for the reed dance and it is believed that girls younger than 16 participate in the event.

Also, about 20 amakhosi from the Sisonke District Municipality threatened to prevent their girls from participating in the event if the government did not provide them with transport to northern KZN.

The event attracts tourists and journalists from all over the world.

“The excitement will be enhanced by the presence of a girl from Finland who will be participating,” said Traditional Affairs spokesman Vukani Mbhele.

But despite all the challenges, Mbhele, whose department is the main organiser of the reed dance, said it’s all systems go for today.

Mbhele said the king’s demand about the maidens’ dress will not dilute the excitement that comes from seeing thousand of girls carrying reeds, which they present to Zwelithini, who may then identify his newest queen, as is the custom.

“Isilo [king] just requested that the girls do not expose their private parts.

“He meant that when they dance, they shouldn’t open their legs and show their private parts. But they will still leave their breasts uncovered,” explained Mbhele.

Royal guards will be on the lookout for people taking pictures of the girls.

With regard to the criminalisation of the virginity testing of young girls, Mbhele said that only girls over the age of 16 participate in the event.

The department has hired 107 buses to transport more than 25 000 girls to the palace.

Teens from outside KZN and the country are also expected to participate. “Those who are from outside KZN will have to organise their own transport … ” said Mbhele.

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