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, King 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.
The king 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.”he said.
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.
But several organisations believed that the act of virginity testing violated the constitutional rights of young women.
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.
He also felt 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…”he said.
During 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.