Fiancee controversy

2010-08-28 00:00

PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma has been criticised for taking along his fiancée, Gloria Bongi Ngema, on his state visit to China this week, instead of one of his three wives.

It is not the first time that Zuma has taken Ngema on an important international trip; he took her on a state visit to the U.S. in April.

In a press statement, Cope’s KZN secretary, Philip Mhlongo, said: “Cope in KwaZulu-Natal demands clarity from the protocol team of government … whether public representatives are allowed to take along girlfriends on official trips abroad.”

Cope also raised the cost of the president’s polygamous family: “Cope also notes with concern the current burden on taxpayers of a large family of the president, which remains our responsibility to look after its wellbeing.”

Institute for Democracy in South Africa (Idasa) political analyst Justin Sylvester said it is important to consider the costs involved and not the image of Zuma as a polygamist president.

“Who partners the president is really not important as it is a personal issue.

“What is important are the costs involved and the impact on the public purse.

“Despite her being the president’s partner, her trip was presumably paid for by the state,” Sylvester said.

Inkatha Freedom Party national spokesperson the Reverend Musa Zondi said people should not jump to conclusions and condemn the president as South African law allows even MPs to register as many official partners as they want.

“What is important on this matter is what the law in Parliament says. Even if one is not yet married to a person, if he/she has registered as an official partner, she/he is considered a partner,” Zondi said.

An official of the International Relations and Co-operation Department, who asked not to be named, said the ministerial handbook makes provision for “members of the SA cabinet to take along any other person they consider to be a partner” on overseas trips.

Malusi Mogale, the spokesperson for International Relations and Co-operation Minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, referred all inquiries to the Presidency.

Zuma’s spokesperson, Zizi Kodwa, said: “In terms of the cabinet spousal book, Ms Ngema is the companion of the president and is defined in terms of whom the president can take along on trips.

“Traditionally they are married as the president has paid lobola and she was also formally received by the Zuma family according to tradition.

“She is an official companion and the president has every right to take her along,” Kodwa said, also pointing to her earlier trip.

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