NKANDLA, South Africa (Reuters) - South African President Jacob Zuma married for the fifth time on Monday, giving the Zulu traditionalist his third current wife, witnesses and family members said.
Multiple marriages are allowed in South Africa and form part of Zulu culture but the practice has drawn criticism from HIV/AIDS activists in a country with one of the highest infection rates in the world.
The ceremony took place at Zuma’s traditional home in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal province, where the 68-year-old president, in Zulu tribal dress, married Tobeka Madiba, 37, according to clan custom.
“This is a traditional affair and there is a lot of dancing and celebrating. Later we will slaughter some animals and have a feast with the guests,” Mike Zuma, the president’s brother, told Reuters.
“It is a very happy day for the president and the Zuma family”.
Madiba and Zuma have three children together and were married according to South African law ahead of Monday’s traditional ceremony.
A statement issued by the presidency on Sunday said the wedding was a private affair. The media were barred from the village.
A Reuters photographer in Nkandla said hundreds of people were bused into the village early on Monday, while cabinet ministers and other politicians also attended the ceremony.
A large marquee to accommodate around 500 people was erected in the village and several goats and cows were slaughtered for the feast, witnesses said.
Zuma, whose tribe is South Africa’s biggest, has repeatedly defended his decision to take many wives.
“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,” Zuma once said in a television interview.
Zuma is already married to Sizakele Zuma, 67, his first wife whom he wed in 1973, and Nompumelelo Ntuli-Zuma who he married in 2007. Both women live in Nkandla.
He was previously married to Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma whom he divorced in 1998 and Kate Mantsho-Zuma who committed suicide in 2000.
He has 19 children, according to his official biography on the presidency website, and is also engaged to at least one other woman.