Stringent security measures have been put in place for the Annual Reed dance which takes place at Zulu King Zwelithini’s eNyokeni Palace in Nongoma this weekend.

The measures will include Road Traffic Inspectorate members conducting vehicle inspections at key points leading to the palace.

The KwaZulu-Natal department of arts and culture‚ which oversees the ceremony‚ has hired 75 buses to young women to the cultural festival which begins on Friday and ends on Sunday.

Municipalities providing their own transport for young women have been advised to vet drivers’ records‚ verify their public drivers’ permits and ensure the vehicles are roadworthy. Young women as far as Mpumalanga‚ Gauteng and Swaziland are expected to attend the event.

In previous years‚ some of the guests at the event - and several bus drivers used to ferry the young women - have been bust for drunk driving. There have also been crash deaths‚ including in 2014 when nine young women from the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast died in a horrific bus accident near Melmoth. The department hopes the stringent security measures will prevent such incidents this year.

Meanwhile‚ the department said on Tuesday that reeds to be presented before King Zwelithini as an affirmation of their virginity have already been collected.

The department said this year’s educational programme would include human trafficking‚ drug abuse‚ safe use of social networks‚ being a responsible citizen as well as hygiene and health workshops.

“Build up activities themed ‘Siyaya eMhlangani’ [We’re going to the Reed Dance] have already taken place in all districts. The events serve as a platform for the queens to interact with young women on what they are expected to wear at the main celebration‚ to teach them amahubo [traditional hymns] and to encourage young women that are not eligible to attend uMkhosi Womhlanga to remain pure‚” said the department.

This ancient Zulu practice was largely neglected by previous Zulu kings until it was revived by King Zwelithini in 1984. It’s a custom Zulus have in common with Swazis who held their reed dance at Swazi Queen Mother’s Eludzidzini residence over the past weekend.