Cuckoo bird syndrome: Jacob Zuma faces family scandal
South African President Jacob Zuma is battling another scandal concerning his private life, this time involving newspaper reports that his second wife is pregnant after an affair with her bodyguard.
A prominent South African news outlet, The Star, reported yesterday that the National Intelligence Agency had been called in to investigate the reports, which surfaced this week that Nompumelelo Ntuli Zuma has been impregnated by her bodyguard, Soweto-born Phinda Thomo, at her Durban mansion. Thomo killed himself when the pregnancy became obvious, local media said.
The polygamous Zuma's office broke its silence two days ago, saying the reports violated his privacy and were part of a coordinated smear campaign. "The reports appear to be part of an ongoing and malicious campaign to undermine the right of the President and his family to privacy and dignity," the Presidency said in a terse statement, according to The Star. "President Zuma continues to be seized with matters of State and will not be diverted from his duties," it added. "He will not dignify such gossip with a response."
The reports on the scandal, which started mid-week in a Zulu-language newspaper, are based on an anonymous letter leaked to several South African media outlets. Zuma, was due to return Saturday from a state visit to India, where he was accompanied by the wife in question.
Zuma, who is said to be incensed by the revelations, has summoned his family and the clan elders to an urgent family summit at his KwaZulu-Natal homestead today as his chief bodyguard assists intelligence officers in establishing exactly who authored the letter that was sent simultaneously to four different newspaper houses during the week.
The letter - purportedly written by an angry member of Zuma's supersized family of three wives and at least 21 children, paints Ntuli in a particularly bad light, claiming the child she is carrying is not Zuma's but her bodyguard's. The bodyguard then reportedly shot himself when the pregnancy became obvious. The writer claims Zuma is sticking by her in a bid to protect not just his personal reputation, but the stature of his office.
Purporting to speak on behalf of the family, the writer said the family believed Zuma had made the biggest mistake of his life by marrying Ntuli. The letter claims Zuma was forced to accommodate Ntuli in a mansion in Durban because Ntuli had become disruptive at the Nkandla homestead, being openly disrespectful of Zuma's first wife, MaKhumalo.
After Zuma married Ntuli in 2008, "we saw the real Ntuli's true colours", claims the letter, alleging that the second wife would gamble and drink to excess, borrowing money from close friends of the Zuma family and prominent businessmen. Problems came to a head when Zuma decided to marry a third time to Thobeka Madiba in January. Ntuli was pointedly absent from the wedding celebrations.
The scandal is likely to cause embarrassment in South Africa as it prepares to host the soccer World Cup, which kicks off in Johannesburg on Friday, June 11. In February, Zuma confirmed he had fathered an illegitimate child with the daughter of Irvin Khoza, a close friend and head of the World Cup local organizing committee.
Multiple marriages form a part of Zulu culture and are allowed in South Africa. Zuma, a Zulu traditionalist, has been married five times, but currently only has three wives.
Matters reached boiling point last year, with MaNtuli jostling for pole position at Zuma's inauguration. She is said to have seen Thobeka as a real threat, as Zuma had been in a relationship with Thobeka far longer than with her, even though he weded MaNtuli first.
Just before Christmas, the situation had deteriorated to such an extent that Zuma banished her from the household.
Shortly afterwards, reports began emerging of unpaid bills for water and lights at the Durban mansion.