SA prez formally weds 3rd wife

KWANXAMALALA: South Africa's president formalized his marriage to his third wife during a traditional ceremony Monday amid media reports he plans to take a fourth bride later this year.

Some 2,000 guests thronged a homestead in rural KwaZulu-Natal province to watch the ceremony in which 67-year-old President Jacob Zuma and 38-year-old Tobeka Madiba took part.

The couple are already married under South African law and have three children. Madiba attended Zuma's inauguration ceremony in May. He paid a dowry to her family in 2007 as is tradition.

Meanwhile, a family member told The Associated Press on Monday that Zuma is also planning to marry again later this year. Other relatives have told South African media that the president plans to wed Durban native Gloria Bongi Ngema. The president's office has not commented on the reports.

Monday's ceremony included an hourlong traditional Zulu wedding dance. During the ceremony, Madiba performed a solo dance while holding a spear and a shield to symbolize her acceptance of her new husband.

Zuma, wearing a skirt made of animal fur pelts and sporting bright white tennis shoes, then joined the dance. The bride wore matching sneakers.

Guests dined on traditional Zulu foods, and attendees were told that more than a dozen sheep, goats and cows had been slaughtered for the feast.

Wedding guest Sipho Msomi, a cattle herder, said the wedding made him proud to be Zulu, the nation's largest ethnic group.

"We love him because he is one of us and does not look down upon us," he said. "Zuma can marry as many women as he wants. It is our culture."

Another guest, 28-year-old Prudence Khumalo, said she also supported the polygamous tradition.

"In the West is frowned upon," she said. "Here we celebrate it. It is our culture and we stand by it."

Zuma, 67, a Zulu traditionalist and an unabashed polygamist, has now married at least five women over the years and has 19 children. He currently has three wives including Madiba: Sizakele Khumalo, whom he married in 1973, and Nompumelelo Ntuli, whom he wed in 2008.

He also was married to other women: Kate Mantsho Zuma, committed suicide in 2000. He divorced the other, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, in 1998, although she remains a trusted aide and is now the country's home affairs minister.

When he took office earlier this year, all three wives were at the inauguration ceremony, but only Khumalo, his first wife, accompanied him to the main stage set up outside the presidency building in Pretoria. Since then, none of his wives has had a particularly prominent role, in keeping with the practice of South African first ladies before them.

Zuma's embrace of Zulu tradition — including polygamy — has endeared him to many South Africans. Still, some consider polygamy old-fashioned and expensive, and question how it can endure in a modern country.

And experts say having multiple, concurrent partners heightens the risk of AIDS, leaving some to question what model a polygamous president presents. South Africa, a nation of about 50 million, has an estimated 5.7 million people infected with HIV, more than any other country.

Zuma is not alone among world leaders when it comes to polygamy. In the Gulf, the number of a ruler's wives and who among them is paramount are a constant source of rumors.