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By Timothy Simelane-01-Sep-2009

IMBALI overseer Ntfonjeni Dlamini says there were 130 000 maidens who took part in this year’s Umhlanga Ceremony.

Dlamini says more girls joined the ceremony in its final day, the epitome of what started with over 80 000 girls setting out to cut the reed.

His Majesty King Mswati III and Her Majesty the Indlovukazi graced the main dance at the Ludzidzini Arena with guests, such as the South African First Lady Nompumelelo MaNtuli Zuma and others.

Maidens from the Ndebele, Zulu and Xosa clans in South Africa had added to the number. Dlamini also said he received a report that a number of girls were denied entry into the country because they did not have passports.

“I was also informed that hundreds others pushed their way into the informal border lines and made it to the ceremony,” he said. Perched within the Royal Box of the Arena, His Majesty watched with glee as the maidens danced in their regional and territorial groupings, led by those from the Royal family.

Inkhosatana Sikhanyiso, who is the leader of the maidens was a marvel to watch as she pranced back and forth, as if giving the imbali (flower of the nation) dancing lessons.

His Majesty occasionally left the Arena, joined by a group of warriors, to perform kudlalisela in front of the proud maidens. The girls danced relentlessly for about four hours, braving the scorching heat.

Tourists and umhlanga fanatics helped themselves endlessly to pictures of the girls as they strutted their stuff. The occasion was wound up by an hour’s dance north of the main kraal. This is where His Majesty, Her Majesty, the King’s regiment and some maidens danced the incangosi.

On Sunday, His Majesty was joined by Zambian President Rupiah Banda to watch the throngs of girls deliver the reed at the Ludzidzini Royal Residence. However, Banda had to leave that same day.

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