Despite what King Mswati III and ‘traditionalist leaders’ in Swaziland want us to believe, many of the tens of thousands of maidens who will dance bare-breasted in front of the king at the annual Umhlanga Reed Dance this week will not do so willingly.
News has leaked out that ‘security forces’ will be out to ensure that girls and young women turn up for the king.
It seems the maidens prefer to give the king a miss in favour of attending other events such as the Swaziland International Trade Fair which takes place at the same time as the Reed Dance.
The maidens leave their village homes telling their chiefs that they are off to see the king, but they never arrive.
We are constantly told by traditionalists that girls and women think it is a great honour to attend the Umhlanga Reed Dance to parade before King Mswati, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.
But clearly this is not the case. The Swazi Observer, the newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, reported yesterday (26 August 2009) that so many maidens go missing that a squad has been put to together to spy on them to make sure they attend.
Imbali yemaSwati leader Nothando Nhlengethwa told the Observer that the maidens go off to cut the reeds but then do not make it to the dance.
Nhlengethwa said, ‘security forces will be out in their numbers’ to check up on the maidens. Each chiefdom has been told to supply a list of the names of those who leave the villages to attend. This list will then be checked ‘on a daily basis .... to ensure that the members did in fact arrive at the reed dance and are participating fully.’