January 5, 2010

SOUTH AFRICA: Polygamous Zuma, 67, weds for fifth time

. SYDNEY, NSW, Australia / The Sydney Morning Herald / World / January 5, 2010 Wearing leopard skins and carrying a Zulu shield in a traditional ceremony in his remote hometown, South Africa's polygamous President Jacob Zuma has married for the fifth time. The 67-year-old and his new bride, Thobeka Madiba, 30 years his junior, danced in an open field at his homestead in Nkandla, a village deep in the countryside of KwaZulu-Natal province. Married again ... South African President Jacob Zuma sings and dances with his new wife Thobeka Madiba. Photo: AFP The two formally wed when a tribal elder asked Madiba if she accepted to join the Zuma family. When she agreed, he pronounced her Zuma's third current wife. His first wife, Sizakele Khumalo, whom he married in 1973, attended the ceremony. His second wife, Nompumelelo Ntuli Zuma, was at the homestead preparing for the reception in a massive tent, where guests will celebrate through the night. One of Zuma's earlier wives committed suicide in 2000, while in 1998 he divorced Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who remains in his inner circle and is the home affairs minister. The guests included the political and business elite, including Mandla Mandela, a grandson of the nation's first black president, Nelson Mandela. Local celebrities and music stars such as Yvonne Chaka Chaka also attended the ceremony under overcast skies, with a gentle drizzle seen as a sign of blessing in African culture. After initially declaring the ceremony would be private, it was opened to the public under heavy police presence. Local villagers, many dressed in animal skins and African cloth, trekked through muddy trails to attend. Madiba, who reportedly has three children with Zuma, attended the president's inauguration in May, where she was treated as one of three first ladies. Since then, she has attended official functions and is referred to in the media as Thobeka Madiba-Zuma. Even while preparations for this wedding were under way, Zuma is reportedly preparing for his sixth marriage. Earlier this week, a gift-giving ceremony was held signalling he had paid the traditional dowry, or ilobolo, for his latest fiancee, Bongi Ngema. Zuma has also been linked to a Swazi princess. Polygamy is legal in South Africa, but mostly practised in rural areas. The practice came under the spotlight before the 2009 presidential elections, when Zuma's lifestyle became a topic of discussion, especially among women's rights activists. Media and political analysts also debated the issue, but their attention focused mainly on logistical matters such as security arrangements and medical costs. Usually Zuma brings only one wife to state functions or on overseas trips. His first wife, Khumalo, was given the place of honour at his inauguration in May, given higher prestige than Madiba or his other wife, Nompumelelo Ntuli Zuma, whom he married in 2008 in a lavish ceremony. Zuma and Khumalo have no children together and she still lives in Nkandla, generally preferring to avoid the spotlight. He has reportedly fathered at least 18 children.[rc] AFP Copyright © 2010. Fairfax Digital