Time to face the people’s outrage

2010-03-11 00:00

“I THINK Jacob Zuma’s time is up,” my daughter, Lael, explained to me on the way to ballet.

Lael has a fine-tuned, seven-year-old sonar radar for juicy bits of adult conversation, but I hadn’t expected her to sound out even Zuma’s private woes.

“Because there are pictures of the DA everywhere,” she explained to my surprised face.

“Oh, I thought you meant because of what happened — did you know that he has three wives?”

“Three wives! That’s a bit silly.”

“Hmmm … and 20 children.”

“20 children! Shew, that’s a lot. Are they from all those wives?”

“Well, actually, he also had children with women who weren’t his wives.”

Lael was quiet for a bit as she tried to find a space to lay this Tetris block of shock to rest. But then, she started firing questions — thick and fast. She was confused, tending towards being scandalised and her double-barrel of disgust was zoning in on the president.

“Can you actually have children — even if you aren’t married?”


“You mean you don’t have to have a husband to get pregnant with?”


“How does that happen?”

“Pretty much the same way it happens in marriage.”

“But that’s not good,” she was ready to pronounce her moral judgment, “ because then when they’re departed ...”

Departed! How did she know one of them was departed? “Oh, you mean when they separate,” I suggested.

“Yes, when they separate then the child will have to stay with his mom. Who else would change the nappies?”(It’s not that my husband can’t change nappies. It’s that he has to bath himself and the offending child after each nappy change. Which can take a while.) “And if he stays with his mom, then he won’t have a dad.”

I agreed. It was certainly looking like there wasn’t enough dad to go around.

Lael was upset. She frowned out the window for a bit. Then she turned back to me.

“Can I tell my ballet teacher that Jacob Zuma has 20 wives?”

“Three wives and 20 children.”

“Yes, that’s what I mean.”

I could see that this was big news to Lael. It was repugnant  that our president could be so carefree. And in her mind there needed to be a reckoning. Like there was for John Terry. He lost his captaincy for sleeping with his teammate’s partner. And Fabio Capello says he won’t get it back while he is coach. Because the captain should be a role model for the fans and children. Good point — so should the president.

Or like there was for Tiger Woods. After weeks in rehab, he made a public, detailed and sincere apology, with regret for the pain he’d caused and with words of love and honour for his wife. He said that he would change his ways. These men, these lesser men, mere sportsmen, had faced the moral outrage of their fans and team-mates and had paid their dues. So should our president.

Lael was right. Zuma’s news needs to be spread. It shouldn’t be allowed to trickle away in a few cartoons and mumbled apologies. It should be remembered in homes and ballet classes across the nation. He needs to face the moral outrage of his people and he needs to make real amends.

“Sure,” I said, “good idea. Will you tell her in your news time, before class?”

“Oh no, I’ll have to tell her afterwards. News time is when I speak about my loose front teeth.”

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