Thursday, January 7, 2010

Comrade Zuma stages 5th wedding ceremony

NKANDLA, South Africa - South African President Jacob Zuma’s marriage to his fifth wife was not without a hitch - while dancing, he appeared to lose his balance and fell. But he did not seem to be seriously hurt.

The wedding was described as a "giant step back into the dark ages" by the leader of an opposition party, while a gender activist also described it as a wrong move.

The leader of South Africa’s Christian Democratic Party (CDP), Reverend Theunis Botha said Mr Zuma’s wedding "to a woman he is reported to have already fathered three children with, and the alarming return to ancestral worship, is a giant step back into the dark ages."

It was the same ancestral traditions that had plagued Africa in the past and that had kept it the continent in superstition and poverty, and not colonialism as some people believed, claimed The Rev Botha. The Rev Botha is also acting chairperson of the Christian Democratic Alliance.

Polygamy is not common among young urban middle-class South Africans, but Zuma's defence of his Zulu culture has endeared him to conservative African traditionalists. "There are plenty of politicians who have mistresses and children that they hide so as to pretend they are monogamous. I prefer to be open. I love my wives and I am proud of my children," Mr Zuma has said, defending polygamy in a television interview.

But his lifestyle and his campaign theme song, Bring Me My Machine Gun, are seen by some as sending an inappropriate "hyper-masculine" message. Some activists view it as old-fashioned; others see it as deeply worrying. "We’re at a complicated moment in South African history with revived traditionalism, and there's a danger of gender transformation being lost," Dean Peacock of the gender activist group Sonke Gender Justice Network said at a past news conference. "We hear men saying, 'If Jacob Zuma can have many wives, I can have many girlfriends.' The hyper-masculine rhetoric of the Zuma campaign is going to set back our work in challenging the old model of masculinity.”

Mr Zuma was acquitted in 2006 on charges of raping a family friend, but his comments during testimony disturbed many South Africans — including one remark that he knew his accuser wanted sex because she was wearing a short skirt.

Leader of Christian party describes event as a sign of steps in the wrong direction

Mr Zuma married his fifth wife, Thobeka Madiba, outside his homestead on Monday afternoon in a colourful traditional wedding which attracted scores of guests and media. Three large tents were erected for the udendwe wedding ceremony under overcast skies in Zuma's rural homestead in Nkandla, deep in the countryside of KwaZulu-Natal province.

The two formally wedded when a tribal elder asked Madiba if she accepted to join the Zuma family. When she agreed, he pronounced her Zuma's third current wife. Several sheep, goats and cows were slaughtered for the feast.

The guests included South Africa’s political and business elite, including Mandla Mandela, a grandson of the nation’s first black president, Nelson Mandela. Local celebrities and music stars like Yvonne Chaka Chaka also attended the ceremony under overcast skies, with a gentle drizzle seen as a sign of blessing in African culture.

The president's other wives are Sizakele Khumalo, whom he married in 1973, and Nompumelelo Ntuli-Zuma, whom he married in 2007.

Mr Zuma was previously married to current Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, whom he divorced in 1998, and Kate Mantsho Zuma, who committed suicide in 2000. She left a note stating that life with her husband was "hell."

While preparations for Monday’s wedding were underway, President Zuma was already preparing for his sixth marriage to Gloria Bongi Ngema from Durban. Her family presented umbondo (gifts) to the Zuma family at the end of December. Umbondo is the last traditional ceremony before the wedding.

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