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Does Zuma’s polygamy matter?

January 5, 2010

SAFRICA-ZUMA/During the run-up to South Africa’s election last year, there were plenty of jibes about which of Jacob Zuma’s wives would become first lady once he was president.

But Zuma’s local critics largely kept silent this week as he married for the fifth time, taking his third current wife. While outside the country, his polygamy was very much still a talking point, in South Africa the wedding was treated more as being a colourful society event than being controversial.

His new wife was not that new – she is already the mother of three of Zuma’s 19 children and already attends official functions – but the president is also engaged to another woman and there is no indication that will be the last wife.

In the past, critics suggested Zuma, 68, was portraying the wrong image through multiple marriages. Local AIDS activists had said that having several partners sent a poor message in a country with the world’s highest HIV caseload. Some South Africans had argued that polygamy did not fit well with a modern society. Some questioned how he could keep such a large household on a state salary.

But Zuma’s respect for tradition endears him to many rural South Africans. Even in the leafy suburbs, the middle classes have increasingly taken to a president who has so far maintained stable policies and they are not bothered by the number of his marriages – a right enshrined in South Africa’s constitution.

South Africa’s first polygamist president says that instead of hiding his mistresses and illegitimate children like politicians who pretend to be monogamous, he has honoured the women in his life by marrying them.

What do you think?

Picture: President Jacob Zuma dances during his traditional wedding to Tobeka Madiba. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Some other views on the points made in this article:

> Contrary to the above, people “In the leafy suburbs”, are terrified by the way the country is becoming a place where standards are being replaced by President Zuma’s personal desires/paybacks. Many believe the halting of his corruption trial (remember he was not found innocent) only happened because of this kind of political manoeuvering.

> its nice for Zuma to say he marries so as not to hide his infidelities, but with having to acknowledge sex with an HIV positive woman in his rape trial and 19 children it doesn’t ring true

> tradition is fine, but it needs to develop with time – certain tribes traditionally practiced cannibalism while human sacrifice was also a tradition!

> many find the wedding controversial but just keep their heads down

Posted by Digivu | Report as abusive

Congratulations to uMsholozi, President of the Republic of South Africa on his marriage. This practice (polygamy) is most significant to the Zulu nation and is very well respected. Those who have acquiesced to modern western cultures and religions should learn to keep their inherited beliefs to themselves and refrain from criticising African traditional and cultural practices which they seem to think are primordially ancient and have no place in the modern world. We, the Zulu nation are proud of our heritage and are moving forward into the millennium with our regalia donned upon us by the Almighty uMvelinqangi.

Posted by Dokotela | Report as abusive

Actually, the critics on polygamy were equally voiciferous in this instance as they were last year in January prior to the elections. The head of the pack this time was the leader of the Christian Democratic Party (CDP), Reverend Theunis Botha. He had basically accused Zuma of taking Africa back to the “dark ages”.

We recently ran a poll on the subject of Zuma’s polygamy on the Wonkie cartoon blog which covers a good cross section of the South African public. The results were surprisingly split quite evenly between (a) indifference; (b) thinking polygamy was morally backward; (c) perfectly acceptable and happy to engage in the practice; and (d) an unfair practice toward women.

For a lighter look at the Zulu view on President Zuma’s polygamy check out the cartoon at ads-the-way-with-polygamy/

Posted by Sizwe | Report as abusive

Actually I would have been concerned if The President was Gay. That would have worried me very very much. I guess he is being more of an African or Southern African Culture that allows polygamy. Other cultures elsewhere accept gay marriages and prominent personalities both in political and other high profile positions such as prime ministers or presidents. Another issue that would have seriously worried me would have been if the President (Zuma) allows his subjects to adopt the female circumcision or better still’female genital mutilation’ that would have worried me.

Posted by Mahlopa | Report as abusive

Most men cheat anyway I consider criticising the president hypocrisy, I think polygamy should be encouraged especially since women outnumber men by far, therefore good women are left unmarried, and yet in most relationships women more or less take care of themselves. I thin its a good idea, Bedo from Uganda

Posted by bedo | Report as abusive

I do not see any problems with it. It is up and up and most importantly, it is between consenting adults. So no business of mine or anyone elses for that matter

Posted by Tanga | Report as abusive

Polygamy is illegal in the US, so I do not have to worry about a future presidential candidate delving into such a practice. However, as far as political leaders having mistresses, numerous flings, homosexual relationships – I could care less. The main thing I care about is if the job is getting done. With Jacob Zuma (or JZ as someone from a previous post commented – not to be confused with the rapper Jay-Z), will he get the job done?

I don’t think that polygamy has necessarily ruined his international public image, I’m sure many people were taken aback from a potential (at the time reports surfaced) presidential candidate over one of the most stabilized countries in Africa saying that although he had unprotected sex with a woman that was HIV positive, he showered to ward off any possible infection. It isn’t that I think polygamy is immoral, that’s a personal judgment call, but for a man that wants to help bring AIDs awareness and better healthcare to the country, why would I or anyone else expect him to remotely be able to accomplish that much less handling a financial crisis that might take even more intelligence?

So, what has he done thus far? Zuma campaigned on the platform that he would create 4 million jobs by 2014, providing quality healthcare while ending corruption and crime. Tall order. This from someone who has – as a previous poster noted – been called up on corruption charges (although not found guilty, wasn’t found innocent either). He promised to reduce the 25% unemployment rate, but was unable to create the promised 500,000 jobs for 2009.

The country is getting prepared for the World Cup, but there are still several obstacles that need to be handled – such as the power crisis. In addition, Zuma faces his own political party’s deteriorating internal structure with arguments running rampant among members.

I want to congratulate JZ on his fifth wedding – I’m sure the residents of the country (that goes for supporters as well as non-supporters of polygamy) loved footing the bill for yet another wedding. Long live polygamy!

Posted by LeAnneG | Report as abusive

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