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MBABANE – Some chiefs have blamed fear as the main reason for what they have summed up as low numbers of maidens who were picked up at chiefdoms to attend the Umhlanga Reed Dance.

In 2019, on the first day of the Reed Dance, 90 000 maidens were confirmed to have registered. The figures could not be ascertained yesterday at the time of compiling this report, however, most of the interviewed chiefs conceded that the maidens was quite less compared to past years, prior to the COVID-19 era. “Fear is one of the reasons for the low numbers,” is a summation of what the chiefs said when conceding on the recorded low numbers in maidens who showed up at chiefdom level to travel to Ludzidzini and Ngabezweni royal residences for the commencement of the annual Umhlanga Reed Dance Ceremony.


When reached for comment, the chiefs stated that the numbers of maidens who showed willingness to attend Umhlanga this year were less than in years passed. This, they attributed to threats the maidens disclosed they had been made aware of, either on social media or from other members of society. “The number of maidens who showed up to be ferried to Ludzidzini are not as high as in previous years but the reasons vary, with most registering fear as their major factor. The number recorded was almost 25 maidens, which was unlike in the past, or before COVID-19, where we would get a higher number,” stated Luzweleni Chief, Sotunwane Sacolo. He said when they called upon the maidens over the weekend, in order to advise them as per procedure, some came through and an attempt was made to ease the apprehension caused by threats they had expressed worry about.

Chief Mashila of Maphalaleni stated that the number in his area was quite impressive, but he stated that he did not have the accurate figure at the time he was contacted. “I recently read that there are ongoing threats being issued by people who do not want maidens to attend the cultural event. This might influence the attendance, however, before I left, there were quite a number of Imbali who were ready to go to Ludzidzini,” said the chief. He indicated that a number of young girls in his chiefdom had expressed interest in attending the event and the threats were the only negative influence on the numbers.

Ezulwini Royal Kraal Indvuna Ndlavela Wilson Mavimbela, was also reached for comment to ascertain how many maidens had showed up in that area. “We did make an effort to advise imbali prior to the day of departure to Ludzidzini, however, not many showed up. The concerns that were raised by Imbali were addressed as we shared the National Commissioner of Police William Dlamini’s message that their safety was guaranteed and they had nothing to fear,” said Mavimbela. He highlighted that there were 60 maidens who had showed up at Lobamba. Mavimbela further stated that the maidens had not reported any threats.

When questioned on whether the number of maidens who had shown interest this year was similar to the numbers in the past, he stated that the number had evidently decreased from what they last recorded in 2019. However, he could not immediately recall how many maidens had shown up in that year, but recalled that the numbers were more than the 60 they recorded yesterday. “Most parents did not release their children to attend the Reed Dance and that was the biggest contribution to the decreased numbers,” said Mavimbela. Ekwendzeni Chief Makhosikhosi Khumalo said they were a small chiefdom, therefore, they expected the numbers that had shown up yesterday.


“According to my assessment, the maidens definitely showed up, as we had prepared to release 25 maidens to be ferried to Ludzidzini,” he said. The Ekwendzeni chief said, usually in his area, a few maidens were chosen to go to Ludzidzini as most were more willing to attend the Shiselweni Reed Dance at Mbangweni, as it was much nearer to home. “Therefore, the number we recorded was the number we were expecting to show up,” he said. The chief further said there were no threats or hindrances noted yesterday which would have resulted in the disturbance of the departure of the maidens in his area.