Enjoying Ndebele heritage

THE KOMJEKEJEKe heritage site in Walmansthal, north-east of Pretoria, is a secluded place in the bush.

THE KOMJEKEJEKe heritage site in Walmansthal, north-east of Pretoria, is a secluded place in the bush.

Here young and old gathered to share and showcase traditional dance and dress last week, as they do every year.

Every year, on the first weekend of March, the Ndebele King Silamba Day is commemorated. The celebration dates back three decades and attracts royalty, ordinary people and local and foreign dignitaries from as far away as Libya and Egypt.

People arrive early on Friday afternoon to set up tents that become their homes until Sunday, to quench their thirst for an indigenous way of life.

Characterised by a spectacular display of various cultural activities, the event also gives the king a chance to gather his subjects from all over the country in one place, to address them on challenges and issues facing the development and preservation of their rich heritage.

The late King Silamba settled in the area in the 1800s and later relocated to the adjacent farm, Roodekoppies, due to differences with German missionaries.

He died in 1892 and was buried in Komjekejeke. Now people from all over Africa and the diaspora descend on his final resting place to honour his uniting leadership.

This started in 1984, when his direct descendent and the current king, Makhosoke II, bought back the land and administered it through the Silamba Trust.

Since then, Ndebele people and other tribes have been flocking to the shrine to celebrate their history, customs and cultures.

This year's event was crucial in parading South Africa's rich heritage in time when international attention is on the country for the Fifa Word Cup spectacle.

A regular at the ceremony, Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana, was there with Xhosa King Zwelonke Sigcawu and representatives from Cuba, Libya, Egypt and Taiwan. Royalty from KwaZulu-Natal, Bahwaduba, Vhavenda and Bapedi also attended.

The king spoke about morality and revitalising indigenous values.