South Africa’s Zuma Takes Third Wife in Traditional Ceremony

Franz Wild, Business Week, January 4, 2010

South African President Jacob Zuma, a Zulu traditionalist who practices polygamy, married his third wife today.

Zuma, who has 19 children, married Thobeka Madiba, according to the state-owned South African Broadcasting Corp. The president, 67, is also engaged to Gloria Bongi Ngema, the South African Press Association reported, without saying where it got the information.

Zuma’s openness about his polygamy has triggered a debate on the role of traditional values in a modern South Africa, said Adam Habib, a political analyst at the University of Johannesburg. {snip}

“He’s sending a signal that he’s not ashamed of the cultural value systems that he subscribes to and he shares this with a significant portion of the population,” Habib said in a phone interview from Durban. Last month Zuma attended the Zulu Ukweshwama ritual, where a bull is killed by a crowd with their bare hands to celebrate the coming harvest.

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Private Ceremony

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Zuma is South Africa’s first Zulu president and the first polygamist president. While Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black president, is now married to his third wife he divorced his first two. Thabo Mbeki has only married once.

“If he is able to look after his family, any man can do that,” McCloud Vanqa, a 72-year-old with six wives, said as he smoked a cigarette at a bar in Alexandra, a township in northern Johannesburg. “It’s better to marry the women than to make them concubines.”

The presidency declined to comment on the marriage details, saying the wedding was “a private family ceremony.”

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