LOBAMBA-(MaraviPost)-Botswana President Ian Khama ribbed his South African counterpart Jacob Zuma on Tuesday after the leaders attended a parade of thousands of Swazi maidens during the annual Reed Dance at Ludzidzini Royal Residence in the royal capital, Lobamba.
President Khama was speaking as he handed over the rotating chairmanship of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to King Mswati III of Swaziland.
According to the Southern Times-online paper Khama invited fellow African leaders and the hundreds in attendance to remember when last a President and Deputy President left their own country to go to the same foreign country.
“It’s not possible for the President and his Deputy to be out of the country at the same time,” Khama said, drawing laughter.
The Botswana leader said when Ramaphosa heard that the SADC Summit was coinciding with the Reed Dance he told Zuma that he was not going alone. “He wasn’t going to miss out.”
The paper added that Ramaphosa was in Swaziland to take part in the Organ Troika Summit of the SADC Organ on Politics‚ Defence and Security Co-operation in his capacity as the SADC-appointed facilitator working on the political and security situation in Lesotho.
President Khama was not done, inciting more mirth at President Zuma’s expense when he said that the Zulus also have their version of the Reed Dance but the South African leader only wants to keep the participating maidens for himself.
“I’m going to ask the Zulu King to start inviting other nations to witness the Zulu cultural event,” Khama said.
On Monday, Khama joined Zuma, Lesotho Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi and Namibian President Hage Geingob at the royal capital Lobamba to witness a parade by thousands of maidens – one of the most enduring Swazi traditions.
Khama – one of the region’s most eligible bachelors – was so impressed he suggested there should be a Reed Dance Protocol in SADC in which all nations participated.
“The Swazi nation must be proud to have such a colorful extravaganza in the Reed Dance. It is in fact the most colorful event I’ve ever witnessed in my life,” the President said.
Immaculate in their dancing skills, the girls swayed and swerved in their colorful traditional regalia while their feet stomped the ground to the delight of thousands of spectators who came to watch the traditional event.
The ancient Swazi traditional carnival begins when King Mswati III commissions the maidens to cut reeds in certain areas of the country. The government provides transport to the various locations.
The reeds are used as windbreaks for the Queen Mother’s residence.
The girls symbolically cut them to present to their majesties at the Ludzidzini royal residence in the royal capital Lobamba.
The reed dance ceremony is said to encourage maidens to preserve their purity until marriage.
Swaziland’s Minister for Tourism and Environmental Affairs Jabulani Mabuza said the ceremony helps the girls receive cultural life skills from elders as well as their peers.
“We have our neighboring countries also sending their maidens in this great show of Africanism, aiding the exchange of cultures within our region,” he said.
“On their own intuition and for the love of their culture, maidens freely participate hence the increase in participation,” Mabuza added.
International media have mistakenly associated the reed dance as a ceremony where the Swazi king chooses a wife for himself amongst the maidens.
In fact, the king uses the ceremony to unveil his new fiancée – should he have one to introduce – to the nation. But he does not do this every year.
After 30 years of rule, the only absolute monarch in sub-Saharan Africa has accumulated 13 wives.
He did not present one this year.