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Wed Apr 23 17:24:49 SAST 2014

Zuma's child in public interest: Analysts

Sapa | 01 February, 2010 16:030 Comments

The public has a right to an answer about reports that President Jacob Zuma fathered a love-child, analysts responded on Monday to the presidency's contention that the matter was private.

"I think it's sufficiently of public interest to warrant media attention, because rightly or wrongly his private life has become a matter of public discussion," said University of the Witwatersrand media ethics professor Franz Kruger.

"He, himself has been quite happy to talk about his polygamous arrangements. He is quite happy to invite media to his wedding. He has put it out there," said Kruger, who has written a book on media ethics.

The Democratic Alliance has linked the story to HIV/Aids, accusing Zuma of undermining the struggle against the disease by having unprotected sex. "President Jacob Zuma's behaviour directly contradicts the government's campaign against multiple sexual partners and the inherent Aids risk in having unprotected sex," DA leader Helen Zille said in a statement.

Earlier, when asked to comment on a report that Zuma fathered a child last year with the daughter of football boss Irvin Khoza, both the ANC and the presidency did not want to be drawn on the matter.

"I'm not going to comment on that matter. All those enquiries must be answered by the presidency," said ANC spokesman Ishmael Mnisi, "I'm referring you to the relevant people who will speak to you on this matter."

Presidency spokesman Vincent Magwenya said: "That's an entirely private personal matter. That's all I can tell you on record. I cannot tell you more or less."

The ANC Women's League and ANC Youth League also believed it was "something private".

"With many African people for instance, and generally speaking, it is not right to have an extramarital affair if you have committed yourself to a marriage, but many men are known to have these relationships," said ANC Women's League deputy president Nosipho Dorothy Ntwanambi.

"But under the Customary Marriages Act, if the first wife agrees, and if all these issues are discussed with her, we can't do anything."

ANCYL president Julius Malema said it would be "disrespectful" to even discuss the matter. However, Kruger said that nobody was saying Zuma was not allowed to have the relationships.

The public just wanted "to know what the deal is", in light of his endorsement of the government's HIV/Aids policies.

Constitutional law expert, Professor Pierre de Vos said: "The more you become a public figure and the more your actions have public consequences and are publicly important, the less you can demand to have your privacy protected.

"A president of a country has far less right of privacy than, say, an ordinary person living in Khayelitsha. He is being paid from public money and his actions have consequences far beyond his own personal sphere as the leader of the country."

De Vos said the crux of the matter was not a moral judgement of Zuma's actions, but whether politicians made certain statements of principle and policy and their private behaviour did not measure up to those states policies and principles.

"If I am a politician from a Christian party who says homosexuality is an abomination, then it is perfectly acceptable to publish information about my homosexual affairs because I am not sticking to my principles. What they say and what they must be [are] more or less in line with one another."

There appeared to be a conflict between Zuma's "very correct" endorsement of the government's policies of abstention and condom use to control HIV/Aids and his public actions, which affected his credibility.

Both De Vos and Kruger felt that the child's name should not have been published. "I think the newspaper went too far with that," said De Vos.

Zuma is married to three women and engaged to another. He has divorced one wife and another wife committed suicide.

In 2006, Zuma was acquitted of raping the HIV-infected daughter of a close family friend.

Judge Willem van der Merwe found that Zuma had consensual sex with her. "I wish to state categorically and place on record that I erred in having unprotected sex. I should have known better and I should have acted with greater caution and responsibility," Zuma said after his acquittal.

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Zuma's child in public interest: Analysts

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