Nongoma – King Goodwill Zwelithini used the 32nd edition of Umkhosi woMhlanga [reed dance] at the weekend to reflect on the gains made by the Zulu nation as it prepared to celebrate 200 years since it was formed by the great warrior, King Shaka Zulu.Addressing more than 30 000 young women and dignitaries, Zwelithini vowed to protect the nation’s inheritance and laid down the law, reminding South Africa that it would be incomplete without the Zulu nation, which enjoyed a rich history.This year’s celebration, which is referred to Umkhosi WeLembe, is set to take place at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on September 24. It was previously held in KwaDukuza, in the Ilembe District Municipality, on the coast of KwaZulu-Natal.Back to basicsZwelithini said in remembering the formation of the Zulu kingdom, its people should go back to basics, respecting their elders and preserve its culture.In what appeared to be a jab directed at how modern Zulus were behaving, Zwelithini said respect played a critical role in raising children, with the nation being able to listen to its elders.“[Back then] The leadership was listened to, the kings were listened to and pastors were listened to when they preached. Looking at your enemy in the eye during a war was a way of life.”Zwelithini recalled the year  when the whites arrived in KwaDukuza.He said the nation was intrigued by the white people, so much so that a delegation was sent to investigate how the white people lived, but unfortunately they died before they could reach their destination. “We know that history tells us that the team was led by Sotobe Sibiya, we know that they did not reach their destination after Ilembe was invaded. All historians know that that is where the rule of law or the laws of the land came from.”Zwelithini reminded the gathering that he knew how to govern people.IlembeIn a veiled attack to a divided ANC, riddled with factional fighting over the jostling of positions, he said, “Ilembe was not imposed on people. There was a kraal where people spoke about governing and there was a royal council that was in charge of the affairs and of Ilembe.”Zwelithini also used the occasion to focus on the young men in society, saying it was clear that they needed to go through the same processes that the young women were subjected to during the reed dance.“Umkhosi Woswela [circumcision] needs to happen because it is clear that there is something wrong with young men today.”Zwelithini believed that the reed dance and virginity testing, which the Zulu nation prided itself in, was misunderstood by the western culture.Defending the [reed dance] initiative, which he started back in 1991, Zwelithini hit back at those who criticised the colourful cultural festival, particularly the Commission for Gender Equality, saying they did not understand the Zulu nation and its culture.When he started the reed dance, his 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.Virginity testingBut several organisations believed that the act of virginity testing violated the constitutional rights of young women.In a clear reference to the commission, which called for the bursary scheme awarded to young women in the Uthekela District Municipality for remaining virgins to be scrapped, Zwlithini invited the commission to attend the reed dance and collate “factual information” about the Zulu nation. As a condition of receiving the bursary, young women had to undergo virginity testing every school holiday. Should they be found to have lost their virginity, the bursary would be taken away.The bursaries were given to the girls during the Mayoral Matric Excellence Awards, where 100 matriculants, including those who were not virgins, received awards for excelling in their matric exams.Zwelithini said, "These organisations, looting money with spades… talk too much. They don't even know about the kingdom or what the reed dance is about. They know nothing about us..."Zwelithini said he was baffled why other cultures could not accept that Zulus had their own beliefs.He also felt like the Zulu nation had over the years been provoked by certain organisations.“If South Africa thinks that it can stand on its own without the Zulu nation, it is lying to itself. There is no South Africa without us. Please don't provoke us because we'll reach boiling point..."Several young women found that the reed dance was an anchor in their lives.A recipient of the Uthukela District Municipality's controversial "Maidens Bursary", Zanele Mngomezulu, 20, from Ladysmith, also defended the Zulu nation, saying that she was proud of being a virgin and that the initiatives aimed at assisting previously disadvantaged young women. Laid their reedsDuring the three day festivities at the weekend, young women unashamedly showed off their bright traditional attire with colourful beads covering their bare breasts, izigege [shirts] and anklets. They each laid their reeds at the Enyokeni Royal Palace in front of the king.The king also used the occasion to honour the young women who died along with their guardians in a tragic bus accident three years ago, when they were returning home from the reed dance in 2013.Zwelithini said the deceased should be celebrated as they were heroines of the Zulu nation.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.KwaZulu-Natal Premier Willies Mchunu vowed that the tragedy would never happen again as stricture measures were put in place for those transporting young women to and from the reed dance.