Tag Archives: Umhlanga

Dancing to Different Tunes: Umhlanga Maidens’ Close Encounter With Dangerous Varsity Students

Students from the University of Swaziland have been waiting 3 weeks for campus to open to allow them to start their varsity year but, UNISWA says it is short of funds, blaming the financial crisis. It seems the money for education has run out here in Swaziland. If and when the university does open, only about a quarter of the first year students who thought they would get state bursaries will actually get them. Students say they have exhausted all avenues by way of pleading with university authorities so they tried petitioning parliament.

Unluckily for them, just up the road, a march of a different kind was underway. Thousands upon thousands of Swazi maidens (by which I mean girls between the ages of 12 and 18 mainly) were massing in preparation for their long march to cut reeds to eventually present to the King on Monday. The air of festivity and expectation around the maidens is palpable as hordes of roadside stores mushroomed throughout the Lobombo area around Ezulwini to cater to the hungry, and often bored young women.

No ways were the students getting near the girls. You could hardly see the small group of toyi-toying students (who’d been brave enough to turn up given clashes with police outside the university earlier in the week) there was such a big crowd of  police surrounding them as they made their way down to parliament. On the way back things got nasty as the police blocked their route back to the bus rank and detained around 7 according to student leaders – the idea being so as not to ruin an otherwise beautiful, celebration of Swazi culture.

“They thought we wanted to disturb the King’s thing, this Reed Dance,” said student leader, Sibusiso Nhlabatsi. He and several others were bundled into police vans and taken to HQ where they were made to do press ups and stomach crunches for half an hour while police verbally abused them.”They told us we think the King is not good enough,” Nhlabatsi said.