Honour for defiant women called 'anti-Zulu'

Canaan Mdletshe

Canaan Mdletshe

The KwaZulu-Natal government has opened a can of worms by honouring the Ingcugce maidens who defied King Cetshwayo's orders to marry into the decommissioned Indlondlo regiment in 1876.

Traditionalists and cultural experts in the province have criticised the move, saying it is politically motivated.

On Tuesday the provincial government launched a three-month long programme to celebrate and pay tribute to the women for fighting for gender equality and the right of all women to marry the man of their choice.

The programme is the brainchild of Premier S'bu Ndebele

Ndebele has been accused of honouring people who stood against the Zulu culture.

"Early this year he honoured Maqhamisela Khanyile (the first Christian to be persecuted in KwaZulu)," said Reggie Khumalo, a cultural expert.

"It was treason and we can't salute such people. But one is not surprised because everything that is anti-Zulu seems to be praised by the current government of KwaZulu-Natal," said Khumalo.

Khumalo is a member of the Isivivane SamaSiko, a body that promotes and teaches traditional African cultural values.

Hulumende Maphalala, a professor of language, tradition and culture at the University of Zululand, shared Khumalo's sentiments.

"It was not a struggle and I don't think the provincial government is right to celebrate what the women did," he said.

"Those women defied the king, the nation and a long-standing tradition, which was an offence and an embarrassment," he said.

He said challenging leaders, especially a monarch, was only encouraged by foreigners.

"White missionaries invaded KwaZulu and turned people against the king and tradition," said Maphalala.

"If we are a proud nation that wants to return to basics, we need not honour those women."

No one from the royal household was available for comment.

However, Mpiyezintombi Mzimela, deputy chairman of the provincial House of Traditional Leaders, said, though he did not know on what grounds the women were being honoured, he felt their act was still part of history and had to be preserved for future generations.

Nana Ngobese, who heads the programme to honour the women, said the commemoration was meant to encourage women to stand up for their rights.

"They are heroines who stood up for their rights and, if they could do that in that day and age, why can't women today do the same?" she said. The campaign runs from July until November 2007 and will cover different districts of the province.

The premier's office yesterday refused to comment saying Ndebele was attending a meeting.