'Rise Zulu girl': princesses call for defence of virginity bursary

King Goodwill Zwelithini's daughters Princess Mukeli and Princess Nqabayothando in a joint briefing with UThukela District Municipality where they called on the Zulu nation to defend its culture and customs. (Amanda Khoza, News24)
King Goodwill Zwelithini's daughters Princess Mukeli and Princess Nqabayothando in a joint briefing with UThukela District Municipality where they called on the Zulu nation to defend its culture and customs. (Amanda Khoza, News24)

Durban – King Goodwill Zwelithini's daughters have defended the controversial bursary for virgins, calling on every Zulu girl to rise in defence of who they are.

The royals said on Thursday that they were even prepared to go to war if the "continued vitriolic attacks" on their culture did not cease.

"Whenever the finger of history points in our direction to defend what is Zulu and that which is African, we tend to highly excel in the theatre of war, and this is war," said Princess Mukelile, citing the Battle of Isandlwana. The princess was speaking on behalf of izintombi zomhlanga (young women of the reed dance), including her sisters.

The king's daughters - Princess Mukelile and Princess Nqobangothando - along with members of the Zulu royal family and UThukela District Mayor Dudu Mazibuko, were responding to the Commission for Gender Equality's declaration on virginity bursaries.

The commission said last week that rewarding bursaries on the condition of virginity was unconstitutional.

On January 16 young women were awarded the Maidens Bursary Award by the uThukela District Municipality for remaining virgins.

Doing it for the ancestors

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 on January 11 during the Mayoral Matric Excellence Awards, where 100 matriculants, including those who were not virgins, received awards for excelling in their matric exams.

Princess Mukelile said, while maidens respected the work being done by the elders and the municipality, the Zulu nation would defend its customs and would not disappoint its ancestors and future generations.

"We would like to make a clarion call to all our sisters who are academics, captains of industry, and to all our sisters in other spheres who partook in this sacred culture to rise in defence of who you are.

"Rise Zulu girl in defence of our ancestor queens who have left this sacred culture of purity for us so that we become the goddesses which we were destined to be.

"Rise Zulu girl for your pride and honour… and claim your space in the land of your mothers… and live in the freedom your fathers fought, bled and died for," she said.

'Deeply hurt'

The commission's report stated: "It is important to note that the question regarding ukuhlolwa [virginity testing] becomes peripheral, as this investigation does not deal with cultural practice, but with the awarding of bursaries based on virginity."

The princess questioned at which stage bursary schemes had become a "traditional practice".

"It is not clear here whether the commission… refers to ukuhlolwa, as it is the traditional practice in this question, yet the Constitution itself refers to the rights of cultural, religious and linguistic communities."

She said the maidens were saddened by the commission's outcome.

"As the king's daughters, we are deeply hurt by this because now as Zulu women we... have to ask ourselves whether the founding fathers and mothers of our Constitution had considered our existence when writing it."

She said the report had failed to present evidence that the cultural practice of ukuhlolwa violated the Bill of Rights.

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