South African Zulu women perform a dance for their ruler.

In a ceremony that used to allow the Zulu monarch, the traditional head of South Africa’s largest ethnic group, to select his wives, hundreds of topless ladies will dance with reed sticks on Saturday in front of him.

The “reed dance,” which was temporarily put on hold due to the Covid pandemic, is typically celebrated each year in September, which coincides with the arrival of spring in the nation of southern Africa.

According to legend, the reed will not remain elevated to the sky if the girl is no longer a virgin.

Thembalami Dumakade, 23, told AFP, “I can’t wait for the weekend, I’m really excited, it’s been a while since we’ve all been together.”

The event is scheduled to take place in one of the palaces of the tiny town of Nongoma, the stronghold of the Zulu royal line, in the highlands of KwaZulu-Natal, a region in the south-east of the country open to the Indian Ocean.

After the passing of his father, Goodwill Zwelithini, who ruled for 50 years, King MisuZulu Zulu, 47, was anointed last month in accordance with custom. Massive crowds gathered to honour the guy who now officially goes by MusiZulu kwaZwelithini and is known as the father of the Zulu nation.

Nearly one in five South Africans, or 11 million Zulus, live in the nation.


In the young democracy with eleven official languages, traditional rulers and chiefs are recognised by the Constitution. Kings without executive power, they exercise great moral authority and are deeply respected.

Before the dance, the girls will be examined: only virgins can participate in the rite.

“Those who say our traditions are outdated are entitled to their opinion,” says Dr Nomagugu Ngobese, who will be conducting the tests. But “it’s part of our culture, we don’t need anyone’s opinion.

Palace conflict

The long-standing custom is debatable. Virginity exams, according to rights groups, violate young girls’ privacy and are a demeaning practice. After being banned for a while, the “reed dance” was brought back in 1984 by Goodwill Zwelithini.

Traditionally, the king would select a new wife during this presentation. Today, a sovereign whose legitimacy is somehow questioned no longer automatically applies this norm.

A disagreement about the throne’s succession has divided the palace for more than a year. The third wife and favorite of the late king Goodwill Zwelithini gave birth to King MisuZulu KwaZwelithini.

The court rejected the first wife’s legal challenge to the succession.

Prince Simakade, the unmarried eldest son of the late king, filed an urgent appeal last week, claiming to be the rightful heir.

The throne has also been claimed by another contender by Goodwill Zwelithini’s siblings.

They may claim to be the king, but there is only one, according to Prince Thulani Zulu, spokesman for the royal family.

He assured everyone that the ceremony on Saturday “would proceed as usual and we will welcome females from all over the country.”

Threats have been made, according to local media, and security has been reinforced in Nongoma as a result. Critics of the crowned monarch recognized by President Cyril Ramaphosa have predicted a “bloodbath” if the “reed dance” takes place.

Misuzulu kwaZwelithini, whose name means “strengthening the Zulu people”, promised at his coronation to “unify the Zulu nation”. He did not address the palace disputes.


0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x