Zuma to give S Africa fourth first lady, protocol problems
JOHANNESBURG SOUTH AFRICA’s polygamist President Jacob Zuma marries again this weekend, officially giving the country four first ladies and an even bigger protocol headache.
Durban-born businesswoman Bongi Ngema will tie the knot with Zuma, 70, in his home village of Nkandla, in a traditional Zulu ceremony recognised under South Africa’s broad legal system.
This weekend will be his third marriage in four years, but despite the enormous public interest, details on his weddings, wives and 21 children are a closely guarded secret.
“I can’t divulge details about their private information,” said his spokesman Mac Maharaj when asked the age of his wives.
“I have to respect their rights within the South African bill of the rights of the individuals involved and even of children. I have to respect their privacy and that’s been my appeal.” The country has no legally defined “First Lady”, although the government provides Zuma’s wives with secretaries and office support.
Zuma is South Africa’s first polygamous president, and protocol has been decided along the way.
His fiancees have been treated as first ladies once Zuma paid “lobola” — a gift, usually of cattle or cash, to the bride’s family, cementing the engagement.
On travels abroad, he usually brings one wife or fiancee, using an informal rotation. At major events, like his inauguration, all his current wives and fiancees attend, with the place of honour going to his first wife, Sizakele Khumalo.
They met more than 50 years ago and married in 1973. They have no children together, and she still lives in Nkandla, deep in the countryside of KwaZulu- Natal.
She prefers her village life to the spotlight, generally shying away from public events and rarely attending official functions.
His second wife is Nompumelelo Ntuli Zuma, whom he married in 2008 in a lavish wedding where they each donned leopard skins to dance for the traditional ceremony.