Zuma family scandal shows up the hypocrisy of polygamy, says Cope

2010-06-08 00:00

THE eThekwini region of the Congress of the People (Cope) blames “hypocrisy and contradictions” of the institution of polygamy for the crisis facing President Zuma’s family, amid allegations that First Lady Nompumelelo Ma­Ntuli Zuma had an extramarital relationship with her bodyguard.

The regional eThekwini secretary of Cope Women’s Movement, Nosiphiwo Mdlaka, said the scandal surrounding MaNtuli clearly shows the hypocrisy and contradictions of the patriarchal system of polygamy.

“We have always maintained that polygamy is an outmoded and discredited practice that undermines the dignity and status of women, and has no place in a modern and progressive society.

“The facts are quite plain: the scandal centres around an alleged affair conducted by MaNtuli.

“The outrage of the Zuma family, and the fact that this is regarded as a scandal shows the attitude towards women. The woman is wrong and has ‘angered the ancestors’ for having an affair. But the man has numerous wives, girlfriends and — it is alleged — up to 50 children, almost half of them outside marriage. Who is at fault?” asked Mdlaka.

Last week, the Durban-based newspaper Ilanga broke a story about an anonymous letter, purportedly written by “concerned” members of the Zuma family, that alleged that MaNtuli had a relationship with her Soweto-born bodyguard, Phinda Thomo, who committed suicide last December.

Asked why polygamy is to blame here as MaNtuli came to the relationship with her eyes open and knowing that she was marrying a self-confessed polygamist, Mdlaka said: “Naturally if a person is happily married to one person and found to have an extramarital affair, one would condemn that.”

If MaNtuli had an affair, as alleged, she did it because of polygamy, Mdlaka added.

“But now reports are one-sided as MaNtuli is taking all the blame.”

Mdlaka also challenged the ANC Women’s League members “not to fold their arms while women’s rights are abused”.

“The Swazi king [Mswati III] also adheres to this outdated system of oppression, where women become the property of men and are expected to obey [a] lopsided set of rules.

“Cope Women’s Movement believes that polygamy must be abandoned by all progressive and right-thinking men, or alternatively that women should also be allowed to have numerous husbands and boyfriends. Any system that is skewed in favour of only one gender is retrogressive and wrong,” Mdlaka concluded.

KwaZulu-Natal ANC Women’s League secretary Nonhlanhla Khoza said they will never let Cope set an agenda for them on what they have to discuss.

“I don’t recall Cope Women’s Movement having a conference. So whatever they say is their individual views, whereas we have a mandate from the people.

“As residents of South Africa, we know that there are different cultures in our society and we respect them,” Khoza said.

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