About 3,500 girls traveled to Nongoma northern KwaZulu-Natal this year to attend the reed dance ceremony at the Royal Palace where only female virgins are allowed to bring reeds to the royal household. And according to reports emerging, the Durban municipality had spent R60,000 on travel and accommodation for the nine Councillors, and has defended its decision to spend such amount, arguing that the nine Councilors were there to “look after our children.”
While Questioning the rationale of the spending in a meeting of the council’s executive committee, DA’s caucus leader Zwakele Mncwango pointed out that the council has to question how the city and its ratepayers benefit from the reed dance to justify the money spent. Emphasizing that it was a private trip and wasted expenditure, he said “We have to question how this city and its ratepayers benefit from this. This is a private trip. This is wasted expenditure.”
Mncwango who attended the event but paid for it himself also accused the municipality of poor planning when he asked why the spending was brought to the committee after the event.
His comment however attracted criticism from the ANC as Councillor Nondumiso Cele rebuked him stating that he “needs to change,” with her colleague, Nigel Gumede telling Mncwango that he needed to see and accept the light as he was “still in the darkness.”
To ease the emanated tension, mayor James Nxumalo offered that Councillors should be included and provided for when planning the city’s budget for the Reed Dance in the future. He nevertheless inferred that the spending was necessary because Councillors have to be at the event to ensure the safety of the maidens.
Meanwhile, Mncwango initially questioned the spending on the annual ritual in July when he pointed out that the municipality outlaying R3.2 Million for a three-day maidens’ conference was unnecessary and wasteful. He was however, allegedly referred to as “acting like a born-again Christian” and “too white” by IFP Councillors.
The Reed Dance, also known as Umkhosi woMhlanga in South Africa was reintroduced by King Goodwill Zwelethini in 1991 so as to encourage young Zulu girls to delay being sexually active until marriage, and as well limit the possibility and spread of HIV transmission.
The girls are required to undergo a virginity test before they qualify to take part in the royal dance. Perhaps the aspect of the ceremony most people have found amusing, interesting and quite primitive is the part where young women dance bare-breasted for the king carrying long reeds which are deposited as they advance nearer to the king. Much attention is given to selecting a long and strong reed by the maidens as the reed breaking before a girl reaches where she is to deposited it, is regarded as a visible indication that she has already been sexually active.
Reports from this year’s Reed Dance related that the ceremony was disrupted by hallucinating girls who swarmed the country’s president. The girls reportedly heard voices and rushed towards where the President and the King were seated, compelling the President’s bodyguards to whisk him off from the dancing virgin girls.