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South African President Does A Zulu Dance, Formally Weds Third Wife

PTI 06 Jan 2010, 12:56:00 PM IST

South Africa's president formalised his marriage to his third wife during a traditional ceremony in the village of Nkandla on Monday amid media reports he plans to take a fourth bride later this year.

Some 2,000 guests thronged the village 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, following Zulu 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 hour-long traditional Zulu wedding dance.  During the ceremony, Zuma did a solo dance.

Madiba also performed a dance while holding a spear and a shield to symbolise her acceptance of her new husband.  Zuma wore a skirt made of animal fur pelts and sported bright white tennis shoes. 

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. 

Zuma, 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 killed herself 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 (m) million, has an estimated 5.7 (m) 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 rumours. AP