S. African party leader gets married for 6th time

From combined dispatches

JOHANNESBURG — Jacob Zuma, the newly elected leader of South Africa’s ruling party, took a fourth wife yesterday in a low-key ceremony in his KwaZulu-Natal homeland.

Mr. Zuma, who is well placed to become his country’s next president in 2009, married 33-year-old Nompumelelo Ntuli, the mother of two of his children, his personal assistant said.

The 65-year-old Mr. Zuma has previously married five times and is thought to have 14 children. Traditional Zulu culture allows him to take more than one wife.

Mr. Zuma and South African Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma divorced in 1998 and another wife committed suicide in 2000. His other three wives live in KwaZulu Natal.

Journalists were initially barred from attending the wedding but were later allowed to cover a traditional Zulu dance that was part of the ceremony, the South African Press Association news agency said.

Mr. Zuma, who was elected president of the ruling African National Congress party (ANC) last month, beating President Thabo Mbeki, is facing charges of corruption, fraud, money laundering and racketeering, and will stand trial in August.

Prosecuting Mr. Zuma could derail his hopes of succeeding Mr. Mbeki, who must step down as national president in 2009.

The Zulu tradition of polygamy coexists uneasily with calls for gender equality in modern South Africa.

Mr. Zuma was acquitted in a rape trial in 2006, when he justified having unprotected sex with an HIV-positive woman by saying he had taken a shower afterward.

Mr. Zuma said the woman had been wearing a skirt, which he interpreted as an invitation for sexual advances.

The ANC — which started as a liberation movement — has pushed gender equality and women’s rights in South Africa. Many women who called in to national talk shows Friday, when news of the wedding emerged, said Mr. Zuma’s plans to take another wife went against this.

Zulu traditions allow men to take more than one wife. But the practice is limited, due to the fact that it is costly and runs against the Western norms that are increasingly pervading society. No legislative moves have been made, however, to abolish the practice, considered part of South Africa’s cultural diversity.

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