(File image) South African President Jacob Zuma. Photo: Bongiwe Mchunu

The Eastern Cape ANC has denied wanting taxpayers to fund only the first wife of President Jacob Zuma, provincial chairman Pumulo Masualle said on Wednesday.

"This is a personal attack against the president, not a policy proposal of the ANC in the Eastern Cape," Masualle said in a statement

The Times, quoting its sister newspaper the Daily Dispatch, said the provincial African National Congress wanted this to be discussed at the party's policy conference in Midrand next week.

According to the report, the provincial ANC's economic transformation commission said it supported a proposal that only wife number one, Sizakele Khumalo, be supported by taxpayers and not the other three wives.

Zuma is also married to Bongiwe Ngema, Nompumelelo Ntuli and Thobeka Mabhija.

"Only wife number one should get benefits from the state. Our understanding is that when a man decides to have more than one wife, you (the man) are able to support the others. Then deal with it," an unnamed delegate was quoted as saying.

Masualle said no such policy proposal was made at the Eastern Cape's provincial general council at the weekend.

"Recommendations from commissions are being put together to be consolidated by the special PEC (provincial executive committee) meeting."

He said "there is nothing suggesting the spousal support as a recommendation from any commission".

According to the presidency's website, the Constitution and the public service regulations do not make provision for a First Lady or First Ladies, and there is no such official designation.

However, the practice is to provide administrative support to the president's spouses through the presidency's spousal office.

This means the presidency will pay for spouses to accompany the president on official or public engagements.

The budget for the presidential spousal support office was R15.5 million in the 2009/10 financial year. The current figure was not immediately available from presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj.

In the 2008/09 financial year -- when Kgalema Motlanthe succeeded Thabo Mbeki as president -- the budget for the spousal support office was R8.1 million.

The PEC would meet on Friday to consolidate the recommendations from the commissions.

"The matter was reported by two newspapers in an unethical and unfair manner.

"What they did was to rely on their selfish sources and didn't even consider calling the ANC about the matter, to get our side of the story," he said.

A media briefing scheduled for Tuesday, to discuss the outcomes of the provincial general council, was postponed to Friday.

The Eastern Cape ANC's final proposals would be tabled at the ANC's policy conference. - Sapa