Zulu royals defend virginity testing

National Minister of Education Angie Motshekga speaking at Natu teachers union conference held at the Coastal Hotel.Picture Zanele Zulu

National Minister of Education Angie Motshekga speaking at Natu teachers union conference held at the Coastal Hotel.Picture Zanele Zulu

Published Oct 11, 2013


Durban - The Zulu royal family have accused the ANC Women’s League of being irresponsible and not caring about young women after the league called for a ban on virginity testing.

The royal family was reacting to a statement by league president Angie Motshekga this week in which she likened virginity testing to the practices of ukuthwala, the abduction of a woman for forced marriage, and ukungena, forcing a widow to marry her late husband’s brother.

Virginity testing is a cultural practice that qualifies Zulu maidens to participate in the annual Zulu reed dance, which takes place at King Goodwill Zwelithini’s eNyokeni Royal Palace in Nongoma.

Princess Busi Zulu, who is responsible for maidens during the reed dance, said Motshekga’s statement was irresponsible.

“Her utterances are a disturbance to the royal family and the Zulu nation,” she said.

The king’s spokesman, Prince Mbonisi Zulu, said the maidens had demonstrated that they would never be dictated to by people who were against their culture.

“Our children love their culture. This is demonstrated by the growing number of maidens attending the reed dance,” he said.

Nomagugu Ngobese, president of the Nomkhubulwane Cultural Institution, which leads the virginity testing in the province, reacted angrily to Motshekga’s statement, accusing the women’s league of being disrespectful to the Zulu king.

“Who is she to dictate to us how to raise our children? Virginity testing is my culture and I will always defend it.

“If they don’t want us to practise our culture they must give us a land (out of South Africa) where we can freely practise our culture without their interference,” said Ngobese.

She said virginity testing was meant to encourage young women to abstain from sex.

“We are trying to fight against this new culture of young women depending on child grants.

“Instead of interfering with us, the ANCWL (the league) should be holding conferences to discuss ways of dealing with women unemployment and also helping young women, who are sitting at home after passing matric, to get bursaries and continue with education to better themselves.”

She said the league was sounding “worse than the apartheid government”.

“When we voted black people into our government, we never thought for a moment that they would turn and dictate to us how we should raise our children. They have insulted our king, maidens, parents and the Zulu nation.

“Surely not all ANCWL members share this view, because I know that many of them have children that they would love to see growing up to be better people,” said Ngobese.

Zulu maiden Nonkanyiso Conco expressed disappointment.

“In 2011 we maidens had a traditional ceremony in Pietermaritzburg, and Motshekga’s husband (Mathole Motshekga), came to support us. Her statement disappoints me,” Conco said.

She called on Motshekga to provide evidence that virginity testing was abusive to young women.

“We participate in virginity testing out of love for our bodies, and we love to be part of the reed dance.

“Anyone who claims to have been abused at virginity testing must come forward and state her case. We expect the women’s league to support our efforts to remain virgins instead of discouraging us,” said Conco.

Motshekga, who hails from Soweto, is also the basic education minister.

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The Mercury

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