King Misuzulu unites thousands of Zulu maidens in age old tradition

Celani Sikhakhane

Thousands of Zulu maidens defied threats of violence to converge at the eNyokeni Royal Palace in Nongoma on Saturday to celebrate culture, tradition and their decision to abstain from sex before marriage. 

In a country that is devastated by the HIV/Aids pandemic which has infected over 5.7 million people in South Africa, encouraging young maidens to abstain from sex remains one of the important ways of limiting the spread of HIV.

King Misuzulu kaZwelithini’s father the late King Goodwill Zwelithini KaBhekuzulu and his wife the late Regent Queen Mantfombi revived the age-old tradition of Umkhosi Womhlanga in 1984.

On the eve of the ceremony Prince Simakade’s faction in the royal family threatened confrontation and bloodshed if the festival was not suspended.

As a result King Misuzulu arrived at the eNyokeni Royal Palace on Saturday under heavy security.

The Reed Dance is part of cultural initiatives aimed at instilling discipline in young women.

On Saturday the rural town of Nongoma was brought back to its former glory of hosting thousands of maidens who traveled from all over the country to celebrate their virginity.

Traditional songs, ululation and dancing were the order of the day with the maidens carrying the reeds to His Majesty who awaited their arrival at the Enyokeni kraal with his traditional Prime Minister Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

The Maidens who spoke to Scrolls.Africa said that they were happy their virginity was celebrated once again after the two year break due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Naledi Sibisi from Gauteng said they felt like part of them which was dead has been revived.

KZN Premier Nomsa Dube Ncube was nowhere to be seen at the festival after acting director general in her office Sbusiso Ngubane tried to block the reed dance and move it to KwaKhangelamankengana Royal palace.

Two of the late King Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu’s wives Queen Thandi maNdlovu of kwaLinduzulu and Queen Zesuliwe laMafu of Ondini palace were the only mothers of the King who attended the event.

Queen noMpumelelo kaMchiza of eNyokeni Royal palace was also not in attendance, which lends credence to the narrative that the Zulu Royal Family remains divided. 

King Misuzulu accepted the first reed from his daughter Princess Lwazi.