Dashiki Dialogues: Zuma has some French man tendencies

2014-01-29 10:00

French attitudes towards the sex lives of their presidents recently got me thinking about what our very own Jacob Zuma must think of it all.

The president has what could pass for a Frenchman’s philandering reputation.

Apart from his polygamous approach to family making, Zuma has been criticised for having relations with other women out of wedlock. Think here of the tryst that led to him being charged for rape, or the sexcapade that makes Orlando Pirates the first family’s team of choice, if you catch my drift.

Anyway, my thinking is moved by how French citizens and that country’s media are treating the recent sex story scandalising their

President François Hollande, who has reportedly been enjoying illicit love with actress Julie Gayet, a 41-year-old married mother of two.

It’s quite unlike the South African approach to these kinds of things.

Whereas ours is steeped in a stuffy, Victorian-era, puritanical world-view (thanks to that colonial encounter with the British crown that changed us, hopefully not irrevocably, from the values espoused by the man from Nkandla), the French appear to accept that human appetites for sex and food are as normal as breath and burp.

The French seem to appreciate the logic suggesting that attempts to suppress these urges are generally imprudent. I mean, look at the litany of French presidents’ love affairs: François Mitterrand had not just a wife and a mistress, but two entire families. How about Nicolas Sarkozy, who famously switched first ladies in the middle of his administration and moved on to the sultry Carla Bruni?

Hollande is reportedly in negotiations to end his relationship with Valérie Trierweiler, his current wife.

At the first presidential press conference following news of his affair, Hollande invoked France’s strict privacy laws and said it was a painful moment best handled behind closed doors by the couple involved. The media and citizens understood without a fuss. This was the same card played by Nelson Mandela when he divorced Winnie.

The French also handle their presidential sex scandals differently to Americans, who reacted with utter shock and derision to Bill

Clinton’s involvement with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

Polls show that Hollande is the least popular of French presidents for a long time, but citizens there are reportedly more interested in how he plans on improving their country’s economy and employment rate.

I imagined Zuma having a private dialogue that wished we understood that the pursuit of happy endings was weaved into our secular dashikis the same way the personal pursuit of happiness is written in the US

Declaration of Independence.

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