Zuma Takes Fourth Wife

By: AP
By: AP

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) -- The new African National Congress leader and would-be national president Jacob Zuma took another wife Saturday - in a Zulu tradition of polygamy that coexists uneasily with calls for gender equality in modern South Africa.

With a corruption scandal brewing around him, 65-year-old Zuma married Nompumelelo Ntuli, a 33-year-old mother of two of his children, in a low-key Zulu ceremony at his home in rural KwaZulu-Natal, according to the South African Press Association and radio.

It was reportedly at least the fourth marriage for Zuma, who keeps his private life under wraps. He is said to have more than 10 children and at least one other wife. He is divorced from South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, and another of his wives committed suicide eight years ago.

Zuma has been in the spotlight since he defeated incumbent Thabo Mbeki to become leader of the ANC last month, and hopes to become national president when Mbeki stands down in 2009. However, within days of his victory, prosecutors ordered him to stand trial in August on charges of corruption, money laundering, racketeering and fraud.

Zuma supporters - including the powerful trade union movement and ANC Youth League - accused Mbeki of seeking to avenge his humiliation by putting pressure on the National Prosecuting Authority to revive charges against Zuma that were dropped on a technicality in 2006. Mbeki's office and the prosecuting authority have denied this.

Zuma was on trial in 2005 for allegedly raping a longtime family friend. He was acquitted, but only after he admitted in court that he knowingly had unprotected sex with the HIV-positive woman and showered after intercourse, thinking it would reduce the risk of contracting the virus. He said the woman had been wearing a skirt - and that he interpreted this as inviting his sexual advances.

The ruling ANC - which started as a liberation movement - has pushed gender equality and women's rights in South Africa. Many women who called in to national talk shows Friday, when news of the wedding emerged, said that Zuma's plans to take another wife went against this.

Zulu traditions allow men to take more than one wife. But the practice is limited, due to the fact that it is costly and runs against the Western norms that are increasingly pervading society. No legislative moves have been made, however, to abolish the practice, considered part of South Africa's cultural diversity.

Mbeki fired Zuma as the country's deputy president in 2005, after Zuma's financial adviser was convicted of trying to solicit bribes from French arms company Thint. Prosecutors contend Zuma was aware of efforts to secure the bribes on his behalf in exchange for using his influence to halt an investigation into a multibillion-dollar arms deal between Thint and the government.

Prosecutors now say they have additional evidence implicating Zuma.

The ANC's national executive committee meets for the first time Monday since Zuma was elected. It is expected to be a stormy affair, with the new charges against Zuma exacerbating tensions between the new party leader and Mbeki.

The ANC executive - now weighted with Zuma supporters - will also discuss the new party policy to be issued at a rally next Saturday. This is seen as a test of whether the ANC will veer to the left.

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