Aislinn Laing, Telegraph (London), June 20, 2012
Mr Zuma, 70, and his family currently benefit from a spousal support allowance that is almost double that of his predecessors. His wives take turns to travel with him and otherwise divide their time between individual, luxury thatched huts in his rural homestead and homes in South Africa’s cities.
But amid growing anger about the ANC’s failure to narrow a gaping wealth divide between rich and poor, members of the president’s own party have suggested that he should be paying more for his lifestyle choice.
Activists gathering for a provincial meeting in the Eastern Cape have backed a proposal, for just the first of Mr Zuma’s wives to be supported by the state, to be put to the party’s national policy conference in Johannesburg next week.
“As taxpayers, we cannot afford to continue financing so many wives,” a member of the party’s economic transformation committee told East London’s Daily Dispatch newspaper. “Only wife number one should get benefits from the state. Our understanding is that when you decide to have more than one wife, you are able to support the others. Then deal with it.”
Mr Zuma has been married six times and has four current wives and an estimated 20 children.
His latest marriage, in April this year, was to Gloria Bongekile Ngema in a traditional ceremony in his home village of Nkandla. The union once again stirred up debate about the Zulu president’s polygamy.
The presidential budget for “spousal support” was £1.2m in 2009/10, almost double the cost during Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe’s terms in office.
Mac Maharaj, Mr Zuma’s spokesman, has insisted that it was “grossly incorrect” to suggest that taxpayers paid for the upkeep of his wives.
“The spouses pay their own living or household expenses, be it food, mortgages, lights, water and so forth,” he said.
A parliamentary answer in 2010 revealed that the budget is spent on personal staff for the wives, including a secretary and researcher, phones, laptops and printers, domestic air travel and accommodation on non-presidential business and international travel and expenses on presidential business.
It is understood that the president’s wives are entitled to medical aid and security, and that his children’s domestic travel is funded by the presidential office.