MBABANE: King Mswati secretly commissioned young girls to attend this year’s Umhlanga Reed Dance Ceremony on Saturday despite a rise in COVID-19 cases in the Kingdom of Eswatini.
The annual event that is normally attended by close 100 000 young girls reported by the State owned media was held despite an earlier announcement by the King through Imbali(young girls) leader Nonduduzo Zubuko that the event will not be held this year in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.
The office of Government Spokesperson Sabelo Dlamini justified on its Facebook account, that the event was held to ensure that the Umhlanga tradition is maintained.
“In ensuring that the Umhlanga tradition is maintained, a limited number of maidens delivered reed in front of Their Majesties at Ludzidzini Royal Residence this afternoon. The small-scale celebration was also attended by Prime Minister Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini” read the government ‘statement’.
The exact number of the girls could not be ascertained as it remained a top secret and it could not be established whether the crowd that attended the event adhered to the World Health Organization (WHO) COVID-19 guidelines.
On or around 24th August 2020, the Swazi Observer, a newspaper owned by the King reported and quoted Imbali leader Nondunduzo Zubuko who was speaking on behalf of the King announcing that this year’s Umhlanga Ceremony will be cancelled.
“In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, His Majesty King Mswati III has commanded that this year’s Umhlanga Reed Dance Ceremony be cancelled to protect the Imbali Regiment and the general public from the coronavirus pandemic” the Swazi observer reported quoting the Imbali leader
On Saturday, Health Minister Lizzie Nkosi announced 39 new cases of COVID-19, taking the total number of cases to 4819. The total number of deaths currently stands at 94 and the Prime Minister banned alcohol saying the decision was meant to mitigate the spread of the virus.
Young girls who attended the Umhlanga Reed Dance Ceremony