This is according to Prince Thulani Zulu, the king’s brother, who said some of the maidens will be coming from neighbouring countries such as Swaziland and provinces like Mpumalanga.
This year’s festival is expected to be slightly different as the king hinted two weeks ago that maidens participating will also be given a chance to air their views on the issue of land under iNgonyama Trust.
Zulu would not give much detail on this, saying, “If his majesty has announced such, then he will decide how it happens.”
The king made the announcement at IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s 90th birthday celebrations.
Security has been heightened at the palace, while safety checks were conducted on buses and taxis that will be ferrying maidens to the event.
The KZN Department of Arts and Culture said it had put measures in place to ensure an incident-free event.
These included working closely with law enforcement agencies, as well as the KZN Liquor Board to ensure that all vehicles coming into the palace are inspected and that no alcohol is brought in.
“Authorities will also be conducting random roadside breathalyser tests,” said MEC Bongi Sithole Moloi.
There will also be high police visibility at the palace throughout the weekend.
“The girls’ sleeping areas are fenced off with razor wire and security marshals will provide strict crowd control measures throughout the ceremony.
“All girls under the age of 21 that will be attending the festival must have submitted a signed indemnity form,” the MEC said.
Working with various local municipalities across the province, the Department of Arts and Culture has arranged for 240 buses and 157 minibus taxis to transport the maidens.
District municipalities have also arranged their own transport while many of the maidens have made private arrangements.
Zulu said the reed dance is a very important event in the calendar of the Zulu nation.
“Everyone knows that this event is important in that it teaches the young women how they should conduct themselves. It has also played a very significant role in reducing the spread of HIV/Aids as it promotes abstinence from sexual intercourse,” he said.
“This is the 36th ceremony and therefore we have improved with time. So, in essence, we are happy with all the preparations. Our focus this year is mainly on security.”