First wives in travel battle

2011-09-17 18:40

Another item has been added to President Jacob Zuma’s busy schedule for his trip to New York – a fight between his “young wives”.

For the first time, Zuma will take two first ladies on an official trip to the United States to attend the UN’s General Assembly meeting this week.

According to those involved in the arrangements, Zuma is being accompanied by his wife Thobeka Madiba and Bongi Ngema-Zuma, his fiancée, who qualifies as an official spouse.

Ngema had accompanied him on several international trips, and sources close to the situation say Madiba “organised her own thing” in order to visit the Big Apple.

She is supposed to receive an award for her work with cancer patients.

According to the source, there is discord in the presidential first wives’ club about international trips.

A source said: “It is the young ones fighting. MaKhumalo (Zuma’s first wife) will not get involved in these things.

“But the young ones always want to be there, and this one (Madiba) probably said: ‘Come what may, this trip I’m going.’ If Zuma is unable to manage his wives, how can he manage this country?”

But the arrangement is causing a diplomatic nightmare.

The two first ladies will need to sleep in separate hotels and have separate entourages because of different engagements.

“It is a question of resources. This time is already very busy, now we have this on top of it as well,” said an official involved in arrangements.

Zuma is due to attend a banquet held by US President Barack Obama and it is unclear which of the first ladies will accompany him.

Madiba is also due to ring a bell at Nasdaq to mark the start of trading at the same time Zuma rings the bell at the New York Stock Exchange, an arrangement that sent diplomats in New York into a flat spin.

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