Annual Reed Dance Ceremony


Enyokeni Royal Palace, Nongoma: 7 September 2019


His Majesty the King of the Zulu Nation, King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu; the Honourable Premier of KwaZulu Natal, Mr Sihle Zikalala; the Honourable MEC for Arts, Culture, Sports and Recreation, Ms Hlengiwe Mavimbela; Members of the Zulu Royal Family; Amakhosi; Honourable Mayors; Members of Government; distinguished guests.

For 37 years we have gathered as the Zulu nation to celebrate our young maidens as they come to lay their reeds before His Majesty our King. We perform this ceremony to highlight our nation’s respect for young women, and to honour their valuable place in our society.

Those who have come to Enyokeni Royal Palace have been preparing for months for this moment. Our hearts swell with pride as we see you make this journey, because in you we see our nation’s strength and beauty. You are the pride of the Zulu nation.

Many of you have travelled long distances to be here, and we appreciate that. We also appreciate the precautions that were put in place by the KwaZulu Natal Department of Arts and Culture and the SAPS, to protect you as you attend this ceremony.

Tragically, our celebration has a measure of pain, as we remember the maidens who have lost their lives in past years, due to road accidents. Indeed just last month we lost 6 young maidens who were travelling from Pomeroy, having attended a preparatory event for this ceremony. We honour their memory and we express our deepest sadness to their families.

We also stand with those who were injured, because although they survived, the trauma of what they experienced will stay with them for a long time to come. May they fully recover, both in body and spirit.

The safety of our maidens should be our primary concern. This is true not only of the Reed Dance Ceremony, but always.

It pains me to know that this year’s Reed Dance takes place under the shadow of violence against women and children which is rising across our country. We cannot meet without speaking against this evil, for it is taking the lives of those whom we are tasked to protect.

Many of you will know that I recently stepped down as President of the Inkatha Freedom Party; a Party I led for 44 years. As I prepared for my last address to the Party as its President, I felt compelled to deliver a final mandate; my last plea to my Party. It was this: protect our women and children.

We must become champions of the most vulnerable. Whether our country thrives or falters, whether our economy grows or collapses, whether or not corruption is uprooted, if we fail to protect our women and children, justice will not prevail.

It is essential that we build a future for the young maidens here today.

I want to honour His Majesty our King for the example he has given to us all by reinstating the Reed Dance Ceremony 37 years ago. His actions were somehow prophetic, for the battle against HIV/Aids was just emerging at that time. Little did we know how devastating that battle would be.

Through the Reed Dance we are all reminded of the value of sexual purity before marriage. This value is a fundamental weapon in the battle against HIV/Aids. Knowledge and information are crucial. But values and a sense of personal responsibility are just as important.

Throughout his reign, His Majesty our King has been the custodian of the traditions and cultural ceremonies that express our nation’s value system. Through ceremonies like this, our people are bound together, reviving a spirit of unity and ubuntu-botho.

Today we come together in that same spirit, honouring our cultural heritage and celebrating our young maidens. What we are doing should send a powerful message that these lives are valuable and valued. What we are doing is good and right.

It is thus with pride and deep appreciation that I introduce His Majesty, the King of the Zulu Nation.

Image Credit: Siphephile Sibanyoni/ African news Agency (ANA).