About 26 000 maidens are expected to attend this year’s reed dance, the KwaZulu-Natal department of arts and culture has said.
“Last year we had about 25 000 maidens attending the reed dance,” said Vukani Mbhele, the spokesperson for arts and culture MEC Weziwe Thusi.
Thousands of maidens participate in the annual reed dance festival, which was introduced by King Shaka decades ago and is said to promote respect for women and virginity.
The festival will be held at Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini’s palace at eNyokeni, in Northern KwaZulu-Natal, next weekend.
Mbhele said the department had made sure that safety and security was up to standard this year.
Last year, a maiden died and 11 others were injured during a stampede.
Mbhele said this had been the first death in the history of the dance.
“A disaster management plan has been drawn up with all security and disaster personnel from different departments and institutions serving in that committee,” he said.
The department has allocated the dance a budget of R4 million.
Mbhele said the king had indicated that he would like his five wives to be more involved and to work with the maidens’ leaders this year.
“They have been involved in workshops since July this year,” he said.
Mbhele said each wife had been allocated a different district to serve as an ambassador, in line with the government’s behavioural campaign.