African business, politics and lifestyle
Does Zuma’s polygamy matter?
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?