DURBAN - ‘SO what?”
That was the response of former president Jacob Zuma’s family amid the barrage of criticism that he had fathered a child with 24-year-old Nonkanyiso Conco and paid lobola for her in preparation for marriage.
If Zuma does go on to tie the knot with Conco, she will be his seventh bride, and the youngest, with a 52-year gap between them.
Conco, who reportedly checked into a Durban hospital as “Mrs Zuma”, gave birth to the youngest Zuma son on April 12 - Zuma’s birthday.
Constitutional law expert, Professor Shadrack Gutto said Zuma’s newborn baby and wife-to-be would not qualify for any presidential benefits.
“The state can only cater for those who were his children while he was still the president. It does not mean that every person who has a child with Zuma will be given state funds and protection,” he said.
Gutto added that Zuma would have to make private arrangements for the welfare of Conco and his son.
Inkosi Bhekumuzi Zuma, of the KwaNxamalala clan in Nkandla, leapt to Zuma’s defence, saying there was nothing untoward in him taking another wife.
“He showed that he is an honest man by paying lobola for her. How many men out there use young girls and dump them like rubbish when they are fed up?” asked Bhekumuzi.
Explaining the lobola process, Bhekumuzi said, “This is a first step for a couple who are on the road to marriage. There are steps that follow lobola between the families of the couples. Don’t be misled; this is part of our culture.”
Zuma’s brother, Khanya, 73, who’s only claim to fame is being the younger brother of the former state president, will also become a polygamist soon.
He lashed out at those who were criticising his brother, saying: “I’m also taking a second wife soon. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it, because we are not hiding these women; we are making them feel proud by marrying them,” he chuckled. Both were unconcerned about the 50-year age difference between Zuma, 76, and Conco, 24.
Despite his resignation, Zuma still enjoys massive support from his home province, which was evident during his court appearance earlier this month on charges of fraud, money laundering and corruption. Scores of Zuma sympathisers descended on the Durban High Court precinct to show their support.
“The Nxamalalas are amasoka (casanovas). We love and take good care of women and we don’t hide that fact like other men do,” said Khanya.
He said paying lobola was a longstanding Nguni tradition, which the Zulus adhered to.
Conco, a former presenter at Pietermaritzburg-based uMgungundlovu FM, hails from Thornville.
She attended Haythorne High School in Woodlands, Pietermaritzburg, and did a business course at Varsity College in the same town, said her former colleagues at the station.Her close friends said she had bragged of being in a romantic relationship with Zuma, who she referred to as uBaba (father), since 2013.
It is believed that she now resides at the Zimbali estate.
Conco’s Instagram account has seen her amass more than 5 000 followers and she has received hundreds of likes for her pictures. In one, she showed off what was believed to be the engagement ring given to her by Zuma.
The former president is also married to Bongi Ngema, Gertrude Sizakele Khumalo and Tobeka Madiba, while reportedly having separated from Nompumelelo Ntuli, who allegedly tried to poison him. Ntuli no longer lives in Nkandla.
Zuma was divorced from Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in 1998. She is currently a minister in the presidency and has four children by him.
His Mozambican wife, Kate Mantsho, committed suicide in 2000.
Villagers in Nkandla were stunned at the news, with many saying that they did not know that Zuma, who they fondly referred as Mkhulu (grandfather), had paid lobola for another woman.
Hlobisile Hadebe, 52, said: “I did not know about that. It’s the first time I’m hearing about it, but according to our culture, there is nothing wrong with that. I was also born in a polygamist family.”
Zuma has made no comment on the matter. Saturday was also Zuma's sixth wedding anniversary with wife Bongi Ngema.
Meanwhile, a welcome back event for Zuma was postponed to May 19.