Wedding Of South Africa's President Challenges Concept Of Nation Building
On Monday afternoon, outside his Nkandla homestead in Kwa/Zulu – Natal, the South African President Jacob Zuma married wife number five, Thobeka Madiba, a Durban socialite. Being an avid traditionalist and polygamist, the union was conducted in strict accordance with Zulu culture and custom. The event was colourful and filled with dance and celebration. The president even managed to fall on his buttocks while performing a solo dance for the crowd.
Some in the know claim that Thobeka is not that lucky a bride. Zuma divorced his second wife, Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, citing “irreconcilable differences.” His third wife, Kate, committed suicide due to alleged trauma in the relationship. He married his fourth wife, Nompumelelo Ntuli, a year ago and both claim they are “still on their honeymoon.” He is also engaged to Gloria Bongi Ngema, another Durban woman. Zuma’s brother confirmed that certain traditional marriage customs are being followed, but no date as yet has been set for the marriage. Zuma is the father of 18 children.
The complicated question of who the first lady is still persists. A senior official in the office of the Presidency said that the role was a ceremonial one, and that the President could choose any one of his wives to serve as first lady. In many quarters it is felt that Zuma’s first wife, Sizakele Zuma, seems to take on this essential role.
This wedding is again one of those events accentuating the immense cultural divide among the different peoples of South Africa. It challenges the very concept of nation building, a term so glibly thrown around over and over again. It begs a deep response as to how you begin to build a nation, especially when the realm of culture has become so sacrosanct and untouchable?