Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini was in a confrontational mood on Saturday as the Reed Dance marked its 30th anniversary.
The king used the event to voice a number of concerns, including the veil of secrecy around the accident that killed nine maidens and their two guardians last year.
He also used the event to justify the construction of a R300 million cultural village currently under way for the maidens to improve the event and make it more modern and accessible to all.
Zwelithini also said he was misunderstood about his mammoth land claim.
The accident that the king was talking about occurred on the R66 near Nkwalini between Melmoth and Eshowe. The victims were travelling in a bus on their way back from uMkhosi woMhlanga when it overturned, injuring scores of girls and killing some.
“I urge the government authorities to apprise me of what actually happened that day.
“What I know is only what I read about in the newspapers. I’m not satisfied. I just feel the government and those families should come together so that they can find closure. It’s not my intention to open old scars, but I just feel there should be closure. I spent my own money last Christmas buying groceries for these families,” said the king.
The Department of Arts and Culture arranged 175 buses to transport the girls to the weekend’s event. Various municipalities also assisted and have been advised to carry out thorough inspections of all the buses. All drivers will have their Public Driver’s Permits verified ahead of the festival.
Touching on the controversial mooted R300m project, Zwelithini said: “Zulus also deserve better. I will pray for those who resist you, I will speak to God. What have we done here in Zululand not to deserve the best of what South Africa can offer?”
The cultural development is expected to cater for the annual reed dance and first fruits festivals.
It would involve upgrading the existing pavilion and paved walkways, as well as sleeping areas and ablution facilities for the estimated 30 000 Zulu maidens who attend the reed dance each year.
The development and infrastructure according to the government was not only for the king, but the Zulu nation as a whole.
With regard to the blanket land claim to regain the entire province of KZN, the monarch said: “They say I have claimed the land, I have not even started with the process because people do not listen.”
He is expected to finalise his claim by March through the Ingonyama Trust.
Meanwhile about 40 000 barebreasted maidens in their colourful regalia braved the scorching sun as they took turns in laying the reeds before the watchful eyes of the king and Premier Senzo Mchunu. – IOL News