THIS year’s annual Umkhosi WeLembe was a strange affair.

Less than 50 amabutho attended the event.

Umkhosi WeLembe, formerly known as Shaka’s Day, was held yesterday at Enyokeni Palace in Nongoma, northern KZN.

The amabutho carried shields, spears and placards with photos of all Zulu kings, including King Goodwill Zwelithini.

Ibutho Zamani Zungu (56) from KwaDenge said although the event was different from other years, he was grateful it wasn’t cancelled.

“We feel for those who didn’t come Those who came are from villages in Nongoma from far couldn’t come due to the pandemic,” said Zamani.

“Hopefully, things will be different next year.”

“But we are grateful that we came. It was a nice celebration of our Zulu culture,” he said.

“We should also gather to fight against the pandemic, which has changed our lives.”

The event was attended by Premier Sihle Zikalala, Sports, Arts and Culture MEC Hlengiwe Mavimbela, Education MEC Kwazi Mshengu and Human Settlements MEC Peggy Nkonyeni.

Delivering the keynote address, Zwelithini said men should respect and protect women and children.

“We should come together and be united in this fight,” he said.

“We should also gather to fight against the pandemic, which has changed our lives.”

The king told the young men: should know that being a man was not about having a beard, but was about action. “You can be a boy, but your actions should prove you’re a man.

“You should also know that respect is important.

“Respect women as they’re your first home when they carry you in the womb. Don’t rape and abuse them.”

“The king also appealed to Zulu people not to rely on government hand-outs and social grants. Get up and do things for yourselves. Go and start your own gardens. The R350 grant you get from government will stop. And the food you get will also stop, but you will not starve if you get up and do things for yourselves,” he said.