Skip to main content

South African president marries fourth wife

By Faith Karimi, CNN
updated 7:13 AM EDT, Sat April 21, 2012
South African President Jacob Zuma and Bongi Ngema have dated for years, and have a son together
South African President Jacob Zuma and Bongi Ngema have dated for years, and have a son together
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jacob Zuma practices the Zulu tradition, which allows polygamy
  • Polygamy is legal in South Africa
  • His three other wives attended the wedding festivities
  • Zuma became president in 2009

(CNN) -- South African President Jacob Zuma married his longtime fiancee in a private ceremony at his rural home, making her one of his four current wives.

Zuma, 70, tied the knot with Bongi Ngema in a traditional ceremony Friday in the town of Nkandla.

It is the sixth marriage overall for the polygamous president - - one of his wives died while another one divorced him.

The president practices the Zulu tradition, which allows polygamy. While legal in South Africa, polygamy is losing popularity with the younger generation in the continent, where it is still practiced in some cultures.

Zuma -- who has 21 children -- embraces his culture, said Mac Maharaj, a government spokesman.

"One of the challenges we have in this world ... is that some communities are looked down as inferior and there's a major struggle to assert our culture," Maharaj said. "You don't have to be ashamed of your culture provided you don't intrude on other people's fundamental rights."

The bridal party took part in a celebratory dance after the traditional Zulu wedding that included the president's three other wives.

The government did not pay for the wedding festivities nor does it pay for the four spouses' expenses unless related to state duties, the spokesman said.

South Africa has no official position of first lady, and the wives maintain private homes, he said. Their benefits include a personal secretary, and they accompany the president during travel on a rotating basis.

"The new Mrs. Zuma had already been part of the spousal office machinery in terms of administrative support so there will be no changes due to the wedding," Maharaj said.

Ngema, an activist, dated the president for years and they have a 7-year-old son together.

Zuma became president in 2009. He is also married to Sizakele Zuma, Nompumelelo Ntuli-Zuma and Tobeka Madiba-Zuma.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:26 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Advocates say the exam includes unnecessarily invasive and irrelevant procedures -- like a so-called "two finger" test.
updated 7:09 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Supplies of food, clothing and fuel are running short in Damascus and people are going hungry as the civil war drags on.
updated 1:01 PM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Supporters of Richard III want a reconstruction of his head to bring a human aspect to a leader portrayed as a murderous villain.
updated 10:48 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Robert Fowler spent 130 days held hostage by the same al Qaeda group that was behind the Algeria massacre. He shares his experience.
updated 12:07 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
The relationship is, once again, cold enough to make Obama's much-trumpeted "reset" in Russian-U.S. relations seem thoroughly off the rails.
Ten years on, what do you think the Iraq war has changed in you, and in your country? Send us your thoughts and experiences.
updated 7:15 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Musician Daniela Mercury has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide over a career span of nearly 30 years.
Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
updated 7:06 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
updated 7:37 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
That galaxy far, far away is apparently bigger than first thought. The "Star Wars" franchise will get two spinoff movies, Disney announced.
updated 2:18 AM EST, Fri February 8, 2013
It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.
ADVERTISEMENT