First wives club: Fascination quadrupled
Jackie May asks advice columnists to assess, from photographs, the president's marital relationships
First ladies are intriguing. For example, Flotus - that's journo speak for US first lady Michelle Obama - most probably had a big helping hand in the campaign to get her husband his top job.
A close eye is kept on Obama's wardrobe, her professional life and her mothering skills. Her girls Malia, 13, and Sasha, 11, it was reported yesterday, aren't allowed cellphones and may not watch television during the week.
Then there is Valérie Trierweiler the new not-wife French first lady.
Many of those in polite French society must have been relieved to see the end of the drama at the Elysee Palace while Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife, Carla Bruni, resided there.
But they must also have been horrified that Trierweiler, President Francois Hollande's partner, had to publicly apologise this week for a controversial tweet that may have ruined Hollande's former partner Ségolène Royal's bid for a seat in parliament. Royal is the mother of Hollande's four children.
Closer to home, we're fascinated by Zimbabwe first lady Grace Mugabe's lavish shopping expeditions to the East.
And then, to our delight, on home turf, our fascination is quadrupled.
We have not one first lady but four strong-looking women who take turns accompanying our president, Jacob Zuma, on his official outings.
Because of the nature of their marriages, it is more difficult to analyse and hypothesise about their relationships.
To try to fill in the gaps and to understand the first ladies a bit better, we rather cheekily asked our two in-house advice columnists, Shrink Rap and Supernanny, for their takes on Bongiwe Ngema, Thobeka Mabhija, Nompumelelo Ntuli and Sizakele Khumalo.
Shrink Rap Leonard Carr and Supernanny Stephanie Dawson Cosser were sent a few photographs of each wife with Zuma and one of the president with all his wives.
We asked Carr and Dawson Cosser to read the body language of the couples in the pictures and they had the following to say about our first ladies.
WHILE Khumalo is at President Jacob Zuma's side, she does not really know what she is expected to do.
Khumalo looks like his mother because the others are so much younger than him. The look on her face says: "I knew you before you were famous." She is either out of place in the world in which she finds herself or is the person who can be most comforting and grounding for a husband with whom she shares a long history.
HE GETS her and she gets him - they can enjoy each other and have fun together. She wants to celebrate everything. She is proud of her husband and he appreciates her.
Mabhija looks most vivacious and overtly happy. She dramatically alters her look and style, and is playful and relaxed.Her body language does not challenge her husband or stand as an equal the way co-wife Nompumelelo does.
IT IS Ngema's turn in the limelight and she is going to make the most of it.
Ngema has a cryptic look - a bit like the cat that got the cream. She also appears to be a bit bemused, as if she sees some absurdity in the public role-play that is forced on a presidential couple. She does not try too hard in the cake-cutting picture above and is secure, like a youngest child who does not have to fight for a place.
NTULI is interested in her role as the president's wife. She understands that there are important conversations in which she can make an input when she attends functions. She takes her role seriously. Zuma is grateful she is supportive at his side.
Ntuli looks like a shy person, but comfortable in her skin, dignified and somewhat regal in her role. The group celebration photo above shows her as a fun, joyful person.