Meet Mrs Zuma number 5

2011-04-30 17:52

It looks like wedding bells are set to ring once more for President Jacob Zuma, though he denied it last night.

Last week, Pietermartizburg businesswoman Nonkululeko Mhlongo, the mother of two of his children, made a surprise public appearance – along with Zuma’s three wives, ­fiancée and ex-wife – at the traditional wedding of his daughter Duduzile in Mthatha.

MaMhlongo, a businesswoman, sat in a row of presidential spouses headed by first wife, Sizakhele ­Khumalo, followed by Nompumelelo Ntuli, Thobeka Mabhija and fiancée Gloria Bongi Ngema. Then came Mhlongo, a divorcee, followed by the president’s former wife and Cabinet colleague, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

The women left their chairs and sat flat on the ground when the ­president’s brother, Michael, introduced Duduzile to the Sambudla family.

Michael explained that in Zulu ­custom, wives should genuflect or sit on their buttocks as a sign of respect whenever they are communicating with the ancestors. Asked why ­MaMhlongo had done so along with Zuma’s wives, he said: “She is ­ingoduso (fiancée) and soon to be part of the family formally, but these are family matters not to be ­discussed in the media. She has two lovely ­daughters.”

But presidential spokesperson Zizi Kodwa last night said rumours that Zuma and Mhlongo were engaged and preparing to marry were ­“mischievous and baseless.

“Miss Mhlongo is the mother of the president’s two children. She regularly attends family gatherings. in Nkandla and other areas accompanying the children and has been doing so for many years. She remains close to the family.” The Presidency said she did not get any state support.

Michael, who acts as a family spokesperson, said no lobola had been paid to her family yet.

MaMhlongo was also present at Zuma’s Nkandla homestead the week before for Duduzile’s umemulo (coming-of-age ceremony).

One of Zuma’s daughters with MaMhlongo acted as umakotshana (a young girl who accompanies and ­assists the bride through lobola negotiations into marriage) for Duduzile.

Zuma and MaMhlongo are understood to have met after his return from exile. Their daughters were born in 1998 and 2000.

Zuma was MEC for Economic Development in KwaZulu-Natal and the party’s KwaZulu-Natal ­chairperson at the time.

A source close to the Zuma family said Mhlongo met the president before he became involved with MaNtuli, but had not carried out a traditional wedding at the time ­because of his personal beliefs.

“The president believes that a woman cannot be dotted with gall bladder (part of the ritual of traditional marriage) twice in her lifetime. So Mhlongo may have to live with that,” the source said.

MaMhlongo, who owns several businesses, lives with her children in Pietermaritzburg. She was unwilling to discuss her relationship with ­Zuma.

“Mike speaks on behalf of the ­family and if he said I am ingoduso then I am,” she said.

But at Duduzile’s wedding, ­MaMhlongo was not, unlike the ­president’s other wives and Ngema, accompanied by bodyguards.

Zanele Mngadi, communications director in the presidency, said that the spousal policy that applied to ­Zuma’s three wives and Ngema did not cover MaMhlongo.

Last year, after Ngema accompanied Zuma on a state visit to China, Zuma’s spokesperson, Zizi Kodwa, said the presidency had extended the spousal policy to give traditional marriage and the payment of lobola the same status as Western marriage.

As a result, the spousal policy was applied to Ngema, who, like Zuma’s wives, receives perks, including “reasonable administrative, logistical and other support” to “enable (the wives) to meet the expectations related to the nature of the office of the president”, according to the Ministerial Handbook.

Because they do not have any constitutionally defined roles, obligations or responsibilities, the spouses are not paid by the state.

In addition to the support for his wives, all Zuma’s children under the age of 18, and all those aged between 18 and 27 who are unmarried and studying at secondary or tertiary institutions, are classified as “financially dependent” on the state.

The presidency picks up the tab for 60 one-way economy class domestic flights for each of them every year, with those of them who are under eight years of age being accompanied by a child minder. However, the ­minder’s flights are deducted from the 60 allocated to each child.

Apart from his three current wives, Zuma has had two previous marriages. He divorced Dlamini-Zuma in 1998.

Kate Mantsho, mother of Duduzile and her twin brother, Duduzane, committed suicide in 2000.

Zuma met MaKhumalo in 1959 and married her shortly after his release from prison in 1973.

He married MaNtuli – with whom he has three children – in 2008 and KaMabhija – with whom he has one child – last year.

Zuma has paid ilobolo for ­MaNgema.

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