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UMHLANGA BRINGS ESWATINI, ZULU NATIONS TOGETHER

By SIMON SHABANGU | 2023-09-18

The Kingdom of Eswatini and KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) have deep rooted history that binds the nations together, including the two nations’ reed dance ceremonies, which recently ended.

Thousands of maidens from different areas within KZN came through to attend the Reed Dance Ceremony at Ludzidzini Royal Residence a fortnight ago. Likewise, Imbali from Eswatini made a return trip to Enyokeni Royal Residence in South Africa to partake in the Umkhosi Womhlanga hosted by King Misuzulu KaZwelithini last weekend.

However, the ceremony was cut short due to the demise of the KwaZulu Traditional Prime Minister Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who died at his home on the morning of the reed dance ceremony.

Despite the sad news, which broke on the day, the Imbali came through in thousands from all over the KZN Province and beyond to pay tribute to King Misuzulu KaZwelithini. The maidens, who were in different ages, started marching into Enyokeni Royal Residence from around midday until late in the evening.

The fact that the ceremony was cut short did not dampen the spirits of the energetic and jovial maidens, who sang various songs in celebration of their culture and purity. Noted is that most of the maidens had their guardians, being a group women, who are responsible for ensuring that they stay pure as most of them still practice the volunteer virginity testing tradition.

The spectacular ceremony also attracted scores of local and international visitors, who descended the tiny, but rich in culture community of KwaNongoma area, which is in the heart of the rural KwaZulu-Natal.

Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Tourism KZN Nhlanhla Khumalo noted that Eswatini Air touched down for the first time at Durban’s King Shaka International Airport recently. He said this was the first of three direct flights per week ferrying passengers between Durban and Maseru. He said Tourism KZN also participated in the 2023 Bushfire Music Festival to promote the province as a must-visit destination.

“It is important that we explore our shared heritage that reaches back hundreds of years to a time before the region was colonised and then extends to the struggle years when Eswatini supported South Africa’s quest for freedom from apartheid.

“The Umkhosi woMhlanga is an important event, where we can reach back to our rich historical roots, whilst also celebrating how our shared cultural heritage can impact on the relationship between KZN and Eswatini going into the future,” said Khumalo.

He recounted that the Zulu Reed Dance was re-introduced in 1984 by the late King Goodwill Zwelithini and supported by the then KwaZulu-Natal government.

He said the ceremony, which has been used to speak out against the scourge of gender-based violence, has also been supported by the Kingdom of Eswatini with their maidens attending the KZN event every year.

Meanwhile, MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Siboniso Duma, said bringing nations together and celebrating cultural heritage was a fine example of how the celebration of the province’s culture and heritage during Tourism Month provided a platform for sustainable tourism in rural areas.

He pointed out that the Reed Dance Ceremony provided an opportunity to grow regional tourism, increase trade activities and continue to build on the already strong bonds between KZN and Eswatini.

“Eswatini is one of KZN’s key regional tourism markets, with the two countries sharing both historical and cultural ties. Our entity, Tourism KwaZulu-Natal (TKZN), is continuing with its efforts to strengthen relations between KZN and Eswatini by working closely with media from across the border to promote the province as a destination for leisure travellers during Tourism Month and leading up to the 2023 summer season,” he said.

He added that hosting the mainstream media from Eswatini, that descended to experience KZN was key in showcasing the tourist attraction sites and the important history shared by the two countries. The event was to showcase the rich and diverse traditions of the KZN region and also emphasise on the deep-rooted connections that unite KZN and Eswatini.

The three day excursion ahead of the reed dance ceremony was a combination of various exciting activities such as adventure, nightlife experience and sampling fine accommodation facilities as well as the famous eateries that KZN has to offer.

Some of the interesting activities experienced by the group included the sampling of the world class Radisson Blue Hotel at Umhlanga, sampling of eateries like the Brown Sugar Oceans and The Chairman, which is one of the most sought after ‘vintage, but classy’ restaurants along Mahatma Gandhi Road in the heart of Durban, which attracts visitors from all over the world.

The group, which included media and celebrity actors and TV hosts, also did Gary’s horse riding and also visited Phezulu (Game drive and segway) and Bistro American in Hillcrest. The tour ended with a visit of Ghost Mountain Inn and game drive and visit to Jozini Tiger Dam.

Tourism KwaZulu-Natal is responsible for the development, promotion, and marketing of tourism into and within the province, both domestically and internationally. The organisation is an entity that reports to the provincial Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs.

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