Durban - Indian maidens who took part in the Zulu Reed Dance last year will not be going to Enyokeni Royal Palace on Friday, citing the need to prepare for their final school exams.

Their participation last year sparked an outcry among some Zulu maidens and cultural experts who complained that the presence of other races would dilute the cultural event.

This year’s event is set to start on Friday, whereas in previous years it only took place on Saturdays and Sundays.

King Goodwill Zwelithini had asked the Department of Basic Education to allow the girls a day off from school in order to participate.

Education spokesman Muzi Mahlambi responded that schools with girls who wanted to participate should indicate how the girls would catch up on school work.

ANC MP Omie Singh, who last year organised the participation of Indian girls, said on Thursday that he had approached them again, but received a thumbs down.

“I spoke to them this year, but they said they were preparing for the exams. I also did not want to interfere with their exams,” he said.

Singh told The Mercury last year that the girls’ participation was to encourage cultural diversity in the ceremony.

Bayede Trust chief executive Rhana Naicker said she would find out from businessman Vivian Reddy, who along with Singh facilitated the Indian participation, whether any Indians would take part on Friday.

The Zulu maidens had complained that the Indian maidens were dressed in traditional saris, which covered their bodies.

They demanded that all the women at the Reed Dance dress like Zulu maidens, which meant revealing their breasts.

They were also concerned that other races would not go through traditional virginity testing in order to qualify for the king’s ceremony.

The Zulu maidens raised concern about British woman, Ella Pill, who they said led them while she was not dressed appropriately for the event.

Zwelithini’s spokesman, Prince Thulani Zulu, said maidens from other races and overseas were expected to attend.

“We don’t do prior arrangement for people to attend. We only get to see them when they arrive,” he said.

Zulu said those who were still in school would have Friday and Saturday to present reeds to the king.

“Saturday will also be opened for more school-going maidens to participate,” he said.

The Mercury