Tobeka Madiba-Zuma: An example in feminism

2014-07-28 06:45

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It would be so easy, wouldn’t it, if President Jacob Zuma’s third wife Tobeka Madiba-Zuma would fit into our set stereotypes.

It would make it simpler to dismiss polygamy as backward.

I suppose we have Sizakele Khumalo-Zuma for that. Appearing glum as she shuffles into Parliament for official ceremonies, she looks the very picture of what we assume polygamy looks like on a wife – difficult. To be fair, she is older.

Not so the decades younger First Lady Madiba-Zuma.

Looking effervescent, especially since her weight loss and that 2014 state of the nation off-the-shoulder red dress, she’s the picture of the wife about town.

It clashes with our assumptions about her marriage, and this was evident in a headline Times Live used for a report about her on Monday.

“Have a man and have it all,” read the headline, which I took to mean Madiba-Zuma had suggested women couldn’t get ahead without men.

What she is quoted as saying is a little less inflammatory: “I think for us to succeed in our struggles, we cannot leave men out of the equation,” she said.

“We need to have men because they play an important role in our lives, and I think if we are to win the struggle we have to have them on board. Rope them in and educate them.”

She is saying something, dare I say, a little more feminist, by my interpretation. That you must rope in your guy, and get him up to standard on being the support you need to get where you want to be.

I’m loving watching Madiba-Zuma’s moment in the spotlight. She looks the picture of a woman who’s made her choice in marriage (backward as it may be to you) and is exploiting the benefits that come with it.

I make no judgements on how people choose long-term partnerships because I believe all marriage is medieval – yours and mine, too. And it’s political – an alliance and partnership that, in modern times, should benefit both parties.

Anyone who tells you they married just for love is lying or needs a slap across the face. Excuse me for sounding Machiavellian and unromantic, but this I believe to be true.

Of course, women don’t need to be married to succeed, but if you’re going to do it, there is no point if it’s going to take you backwards rather than forwards, whatever your personal ambitions may be.

Madiba-Zuma married from the heart, I’m sure, but likely also for influence I’m presuming. She married smart.

And marrying cleverly is not about marrying for money. It’s about partnering with a person who is going to move forward with you on the path you’ve set yourself to reach your goals.

I’m enjoying seeing Madiba-Zuma for another reason. Getting married to a president offers opportunities and a platform that other spouses will never have.

President Jacob Zuma and his wife Tobeka Madiba-Zuma during their traditional wedding ceremony.

And I, for one, want to see the first lady making the most of those privileges by bettering her life and those of others.

Madiba-Zuma is being an example by improving her health. She’s helping others, we assume, by the work she does in her foundation.

All the president’s wives should be seen to be active in some way, and we do a disservice to ourselves by writing them off just because they’ve chosen polygamy over monogamy.

These women are living off our taxes. We need to see them being active participants in our democracy.

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