Not content with having just unseated Thabo Mbeki as President of the ruling African National Congress (while not questioning his position as South Africa's national President), a joyous, polygamous Jacob Zuma, 63, yesterday took unto himself his fourth bride in the traditional setting of his northern KwaZulu-Natal homestead, Nkandla. He delivered the traditional lobola (bride price) of 11 cattle for Nompumelelo, 33, and slaughtered another four cattle for the 500 guests, some of whom carried familiar Zulu weapons of shield and knobkerries (clubs). The bride and her party had arrived late on Friday night, which they spent under a tree in a meeting spot called an isigcawu.
Zuma has many children by his polygamous wives, and by others. He is cagey about how many there are, but they are said to number 18. Two are with his new bride - they live in a mansion in Durban 'given' to Zuma by a benefactor. Zuma has several benefactors who allegedly used his political influence to secure tenders for clients in a huge South African arms procurement deal - Zuma's financial adviser was convicted of this practice last year and is spending 15 years in prison. Zuma himself was charged with corruption, but the trial was struck from the rolls for lack of evidence. (However, the state intends to reopen it in August).
The self-educated Zulu, who became head of ANC Military Intelligence, wore designer clothes from an exclusive Durban boutique. After an exchange of gifts with his bride, Zuma emerged, dressed in a leopard skin, and leading a group of warriors singing a Zulu war song (Wawuyaphi ungapethete isibhamu – Where are you going without a gun? – a militaristic note struck repeatedly by Zuma during his campaign for the ANC presidency).
Zuma married Sizakele Khumalo in 1959. She has a good relationship with the new bride and helped prepared the feast. Next in 1976 he married Kate Mantsho, who committed suicide in 2000, leaving behind a note in which she complained of 'hell' with Zuma. The third wife was Thobeka Stacy Mabhija (and Zuma had a long-term relationship with Minah Shongwe, mother of Zuma's son Edward, who is regarded as Zuma's heir). In the 1980s, he married the present Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, but divorced her in 1997. Last June, Zuma was rumoured to be expecting his 18th baby (this time with Thobeka Stacy Mabhija, a woman from Durban).
Meanwhile, the niece of the king of neighbouring Swaziland, Mswati 111, Sebentile Dlamini, has been waiting patiently for more than five years to marry Zuma. When Zuma took his fourth wife yesterday, Sebentile and the Swazi royal family reportedly were left 'clueless' about what would become of Zuma's romance with their daughter. They had not even been informed that he was taking on another wife. Qethuka Dlamini, spokesperson for the Swazi royal family, was shocked when informed by a newspaper of the wedding: 'Hawu, we don't know about that,' he said, adding that it would have been a sign of courtesy 'just to inform us'. However, 'When Zuma asked for Sebentile's hand in marriage, I think our daughter was prepared for a possibility of him taking other wives after her'. It appears that Zuma paid 10 cattle as lobolo for Sebentile.