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Maidens trade song and dance for hymns in honour of Buthelezi

Maiden Snothando Myeni in a sarong bearing Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi's image. She was among many young women who gathered at Enyokeni Royal Palace in KwaNongoma on Saturday for the annual reed dance.
Maiden Snothando Myeni in a sarong bearing Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi's image. She was among many young women who gathered at Enyokeni Royal Palace in KwaNongoma on Saturday for the annual reed dance.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu

Zulu maidens who have gathered for the annual reed dance in Ulundi say they will replace singing and dancing with mournful hymns in honour of Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who died early on Saturday morning.

Thousands of maidens and their guardians gathered in Enyokeni Royal Palace in KwaNongoma expressed sadness at his death, while also paying tribute to the Zulu nation's traditional prime minister. 

Snelile Ndlovu, 28, from iLembe, told TimesLIVE that Buthelezi's death on the morning of the reed dance was a blow for the maidens.

“Receiving such bad news on a day like this, our big day, is very disturbing. This is a day where we gather as maidens, to pray and plead with our ancestors to grant us power to continue with this tradition.”

Ndlovu said the event would not be the same without him, adding they had been looking forward to his presence.

“It was going be nice to see him at the king's (Misuzulu kaZwelithini) homestead, happy and smiling, going to the arena, singing hymns and celebrating with him, listening to him talking about how much he loves us and that we must carry on being good, well-mannered individuals.”

Emelda Gina, the Jozini maidens' guardian, described Buthelezi as a towering figure of integrity who had an affinity for hymns, some of which would often be a source of amusement as some people would mimic him.

“He loved maidens and was also generous in offering his teachings. He stood for the truth no matter how it was interpreted by the next person. He was also committed to the culture.”

She said the guardians had deliberated on ways to pay their respects after hearing the news of Buthelezi’s death.

“I was in talks with some of the women who have accompanied some of the maidens about the plans for the rest of the reed dance. Since we are in mourning, let’s rather hum hymns instead of the common songs maidens often chant during the festivities.”

Gina’s sentiments were shared by 16-year-old Snothando Myeni who was attending her eighth reed dance.

“As maidens we must not sing cheerful songs but recite hymns because he enjoyed leading us in hymns during the reed dance. It is also a way of praying to be heard by God.”

Myeni was dressed in a sarong featuring Buthelezi's image, while those of other maidens featured King Misuzulu kaZwelithini or the late king Goodwill kaZwelithini kaBhekuzulu.

TimesLIVE

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