South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma has set rumour mills agog by hinting that he may marry again.
During a visit to a Durban township on Tuesday, the 72-year-old leader who already has four wives, said in Zulu: “Angakayakhi indlu yokugugela… laba ngisabathathile nje” (I do have wives but I’m yet to marry my last one).
The crowd, most of them elderly, laughed and cheered, The Star newspaper said in its report on Wednesday.
Zuma, who on Sunday said he was in “perfect condition” after a stay in hospital in June, had earlier given a speech about the need to respect and tend for older people.
Sihawu Ngubane, a professor at KwaZulu-Natal University in Durban, was quoted by the newspaper as saying it was fairly standard among Zulu people for a man who practises polygamy to take a last wife for his final years, sometimes the younger sister of one of his wives.
He can marry 10 wives .... but WE, the people, should not have to foot the bill
“They call the last wife ‘indlu yokugugela’ (the home in which I will age in) because the responsibility of looking after the husband in their old age predominantly lies with the junior wife, who is often younger than the other
wives and more agile in case there is an emergency,” he said.
Some South Africans reacted to the rumour with support.
“Good for him and the wife to be,” said radio presenter Sebenzile Nkambule on Twitter. “Why are people upset? It’s THEIR culture. You don’t like it, don’t be polygamous.”
But with over 20 children, and four wives currently on the state’s budget, Zuma has also been harshly criticised for hitting taxpayers’ pockets with his personal life after refurbishments to his private home — including a swimming pool and amphitheatre.
The $21 million refurbishments were paid for with public funds under the guise of “security upgrades”.
“He can marry 10 wives …. but WE, the people, should not have to foot the bill,” commented reader Matt Howard on The Star’s website.