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Fri Nov 21 04:13:41 SAST 2014

'Delicacy be damned - Zuma's wives cost us too much'

The Times | 20 June, 2012 00:06

THE gloves are off in the race for the ANC presidency - and it has just become intensely personal, with the Eastern Cape ANC proposing that the issue of President Jacob Zuma's four wives must be discussed at the ruling party's policy conference next week.

At the end of a two-day ANC provincial council meeting in East London, members of the economic transformation commission supported a proposal that all Zuma's wives bar his first lose all state benefits.

One delegate went so far as to say that taxpayers could not afford "to continue financing so many wives. Only wife number one should get benefits from the state".

Essentially, the delegate said, a man who wanted more than one wife should be able to "deal with it" himself.

That the proposal comes from Eastern Cape, a region that will be hugely influential in deciding whether Zuma survives at the ANC national elective conference, in Mangaung in December, must be cause for concern for the president and his supporters.

Zuma's wives and their state support are not new issues. His traditional view on marriage has been criticised by both political opponents and bemused observers.

When he married Bongi Ngema, in April, the immediate concern was that she would become an expense passed on to the taxpayer.

Zuma's spokesman, Mac Maharaj, was quick to respond, saying the spousal budget would not be affected.

Julius Malema, in his bitter fight with Zuma, has made veiled references to the president's wives. In June last year, speaking in Eastern Cape, Malema said he would not encourage people to have "many wives".

The Zuma wives have never before been at the centre of a formal party debate such as has now been called for.

That the debate has been called for shows that nothing will remain sacred or off-limits as the ANC rivals square up over the next few months before the conference in Mangaung.

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