Clarity on Jacob Zuma’s wives

7 January 2010

South African President Jacob Zuma, who practises polygamy in keeping with traditional African culture, has not five but three wives, any of whom may accompany him on official engagements.

In a statement aimed at correcting media reports following Zuma’s wedding to Tobeka Madiba-Zuma on the weekend, the Presidency said that South Africa’s Constitution and public service regulations did not make provision for a First Lady or First Ladies, and that there was thus “no such official designation”.

Contrary to media reports, Zuma has not five but three wives: Sizakele Khumalo, Nompumelelo Ntuli, and Tobeka Madiba. He also has a fiancee, Bongi Ngema.

When it comes to official or public engagements, the Presidency said, it is up to Zuma to decide whether he is accompanied by any or all of his wives. “This is his prerogative, and has been the practice since he took office.”

The Presidency said it provided “administrative support” to the President’s wives through its spousal office, “as has been the practice in past administrations”.

While Zuma’s wives might take part in community work or other activities that supported the President’s work, this was purely voluntary, as they were not part of the Presidency or the public service.

MaKhumalo (in isiZulu culture, married or adult women have the prefix “Ma” added to their surnames), whose area of interest is agriculture and food security, runs a vegetable garden project in Zuma’s home village of Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal.

KaMadiba (the prefix “Ka” is used for names already beginning with “Ma”) is interested in health care, especially work relating to the fight against cervical cancer. MaNtuli’s focus is on social development; she works to help orphans and vulnerable children.

SAinfo reporter

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