Former president Jacob Zuma has always been both a lover and a fighter.
His charming style and allure with people are almost as well known as his revolutionary stripes. This characteristic is at least one of the factors which kept him in power for over a decade even as he dragged his country through nine scandals.
Zuma loves to love. He currently has four wives and news on Friday revealed that he is to take a fifth – 24-year-old Nonkanyiso Conco with whom he last week had a baby at 76 years old. If you’re calculating, it’s a 52-year age gap and the little one is the 24th child.
This is the best possible news for President Cyril Ramaphosa who reportedly faced the threat of a scalded Zuma mobilising behind disaffected ANC members in KwaZulu-Natal.
But now it seems that Zuma has chosen to use his retirement to reignite a plan to marry more regularly. When he first became president, Zuma made a joyful biennial marriage part of annual festivities along with the annual Christmas party and chess tournament to which he would treat his neighbours in the surrounds of Nkandla.
In his first years in office, he married Thobeka Madiba and Gloria Ngema until the ANC put a stop to it. At his wedding to Ngema, Zuma told his new bride, “Don’t close the door that you found open…” and he is clearly now free to exercise his options.
A member of the ANC’s former leadership told me that the women in the party had approached Zuma and told him that his polygamous lifestyle was accepted as a traditional right, but if the first family expanded annually it would impact on the party’s identity as a modern organisation that supported gender rights.
Zuma’s polygamy and peccadillos were threatening to define his presidency, they warned. In 2010, Zuma was forced by his party to apologise to the nation for unpresidential behaviour after he fathered his 20th child with Sonono Khoza, the daughter of his friend and soccer boss Irvin Khoza. He was 29 years older than Khoza whom he never married.
So, the president stopped the wedded bliss and reportedly left a Swazi princess, Sebentile Dlamini, stranded after he proposed to her family in 2002. But, unshackled from the chains of office, the former president is now free to be the lover he always was.
The nation’s been atwitter with news that Zuma may be fomenting an uprising in KwaZulu-Natal. It’s well-known that he did not leave office as a happy chap – in fact, the former president was virtually dragged kicking and screaming the words “But what I have I done?” from Mahlamba Ndlopfu, the presidential estate in Pretoria.
Reports have suggested Zuma plans to bolster a provincial opposition force against Ramaphosa. This could go two ways: either a new party is formed to take on the governing ANC in KwaZulu-Natal or provincial barons, led by Zuma, would cause enough trouble to secure a national general council where a recall of Ramaphosa would be attempted.
So to hear that Zuma’s lover has won out over his fighter is the best possible news for Ramaphosa.