Nongoma – Thousands of maidens from all over the country were expected to gather for the second day of the 32nd annual Umkhosi woMhlanga Reed Dance, at the Enyokeni Roayal Palace in Nongomo, on Saturday.
The three day event began on Friday, with some maidens, led by Zwelithini’s daughter, Nqabangothando, presenting their reeds to the king.
King Goodwill Zwelithini was expected to address the maidens later on Saturday.
The colourful cultural festival, in which the Zulu nation prides itself in, was first introduced by Zwelithini in 1991.
The Zulu king’s vision was to encourage young women to abstain from having sex, which would have an impact on the sexual transmission of HIV/Aids amongst young people.
Department of Arts and Culture spokesperson, Lethukuthula Mtshali, said maidens wake up at around 05:00. By 07:00 the young women gather for breakfast and visit various exhibition stands where they are exposed to different career opportunities.
This is followed by instructions from their guardians on how they are to carry their reeds.
Each district then presents their reeds to the king and then gather at an arena where they will be addressed by the king and other dignitaries.
President Zuma could attend
Mtshali said President Jacob Zuma was likely to attend the festivities, however the Presidency’s Bongani Ngqulunga could not confirm.
In 2015, Zuma had to reportedly be shielded by his bodyguards and rushed out of the ceremony at Enyokeni Palace when demons allegedly attacked the maidens.
According to a Mercury report, Zuma was escorted from a soccer field where he was meant to share the stage with Zwelithini in addressing the maidens.
The guards reportedly feared for Zuma’s safety when the event turned chaotic, apparently as hysterical maidens allegedly visualised demons “attacking them”.
Last August, 38 young Swazi women were killed on the Mbabane-Manzini highway while on their way to cut reeds for the Umhlanga reed dance.
The Times of Swaziland reported that the accident involved two trucks carrying the girls, and a Toyota van. The first truck crashed into the Toyota van after traffic police had stopped it. The second truck then crashed into the first truck.
In 2013, 11 people, including seven girls, were killed when their bus crashed near Melmoth, on the R66. They had attended the annual Reed Dance in Nongoma and were returning home to uMzumbe, on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast.
Arts and Culture MEC Bongiwe Sithole-Moloi on Friday urged motorists, especially those transporting maidens, to be extra cautious on the roads.