Zuma and Polygamy: A perspective from a Zimbabwean woman

Date: February 9, 2010
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I have been following with interest the debate around Zuma and the baby with Irvin Khoza’s daughter. Of course, we know that polygamy is an old-age cultural norm among the Zulu and the Ndebele from Zimbabwe.

We may debate the pros and cons of this practice; some say it is disrespectful of women while others say it is a tradition that should be preserved for future generations. Whatever you believe, we need to scrutinise the real issues around the outcry about Zuma.

First, he is a public official, the most powerful man in the land and therefore what he does is of interest to many and not just South Africans; this includes other Africans. If he keeps having children outside marriage when he already has five wives, what example is he setting for South Africans? Is he saying it is perfectly fine and acceptable to have children out of wedlock? Should we endorse and embrace this practice simply because it is already happening? Should society give up on moral values? What about family values?

Secondly, what is Zuma saying about women in general and the women in his life, in particular? To me it seems that he has no respect for women and he does not view them as normal human beings with feelings. Of course, his wives may not have a say in what he does outside the home but does he stop to think about how they might feel about his behavior? Thirdly, what about his children?

I feel sorry for his children because I do not think that any child deserves to hear their father or mother being criticised in public. We all want to think the best of our parents. Does Zuma understand that his actions not only affect him but those around him as well?

Finally and perhaps MORE IMPORTANTLY, we are living in a worlds where HIV/AIDS is a reality so would it be too much to ask that we discard some of our practices in order to try and minimize the spread of the virus? Africa’s AIDS statistics are really scary and I think for the president of any country this should be a cause for concern.

African leaders should lead by example and take the lead in the fight against AIDS. Never mind the fact that we, as Africans, in the spirit of Ubuntu, should condemn extra marital affairs.
Never mind that Zuma is a public official.

Our major concern right now should be what each and every one of us is contributing in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Every step, no matter how small, is critical in reducing the spread of the HI virus. That is the message we need to be spreading out there.

And for women, what are we saying to the girl child who is sitting in the classroom right now, that she should not bother working hard in her Maths and Science class because she may get married to a powerful man? Or that she is simply there to fulfill a man’s desires and she should not have a life of her own?



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