South Africa’s polygamous PresidentJacob Zuma on Saturday celebrated his sixth wedding in a second day of weekend festivities filled with traditional Zulu culture.
The 70-year-old formalised his relationship with long-time fiancee Bongi Ngema on Friday with Zulu song and dance while dressed in leopard skins and carrying a shield surrounded by men in similar warrior attire.
The businesswoman became Zuma’s fourth wife in Nkandla, deep in the KwaZulu-Natal countryside, where on Saturday she handed presents to Zuma’s family at his homestead in a gift ceremony.
Friday afternoon’s tying of the knot was followed by a glitzy western-style evening reception with a tiered cake where the couple donned formal wear in a marquee erected on the grounds of a local school.
The couple have a seven-year-old son and Ngema joins Zuma’s three other wives to become one of four first ladies with all spouses attending the marriage.
The wedding is his third in just over four years and the second since coming to power in 2009 as the country’s first president with multiple wives.
In all, he has married six times and has 21 children. One of his wives has died, and another – home affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma – divorced him.
The wives have no specific roles or responsibilities but their benefits include travel and secretaries and they are expected to support the president at state and official functions, with Ngema accompanying him to France last year.
With debate over his growing family after news of the nuptials broke last weekend, Zuma’s office has said he would foot the wedding bill and that Ngema was already part of the president’s spousal budget.
This comes after the state had to nearly double the spousal budget to more than two million dollars after he took office with his large family.
While legally recognised, polygamy is becoming less popular in South Africa where modernity and Western lifestyles have taken root.
A survey in 2010 found that nearly three-fourths of South Africans disapprove of polygamy. Among women, 83% disapproved.