How first lady Tobeka Zuma lost 30kg in a year
Elegant in a fitted purple lace dress, first lady Tobeka Madiba Zuma arrived in the reception room of the president's official Durban residence. Her smile was radiant and she appeared taller than usual - a combination of the cream stilettos and a new-found slender figure.
President Jacob Zuma's fifth wife was welcoming and hospitable, but first there was a security check at John Dube House in Morningside and a meeting with her personal assistant, Khanyisile Maphumulo, who assured us that "Madam Zuma", as the staff call her, would not be long. Soon the first lady herself was there.
"Welcome, my dear," were her first words as she seated herself on an imposing couch.
This was a rare opportunity to interview - and make small talk with - the president's wife, who is known for her style and glamour. She wanted to talk about her foundation, but the opportunity to discuss her weight loss was overwhelming. Madiba Zuma had clearly been successful at it.
The mother of Zuma's seven-year-old daughter, Nqobile, spent about 40 minutes talking about her women-empowerment work, healthy eating and her dramatic 30kg weight loss.
Madiba Zuma, who married the president according to traditional custom four years ago, spoke eagerly about one of her favourite topics, cervical and breast cancer awareness, which she conducts through her Tobeka Madiba Zuma Foundation.
Then she shifted her focus to her own dramatic transformation. "I did this for my own wellbeing, but I have had his [Zuma's] support."
Two years ago, Madiba Zuma, who met the president while she worked at a bank, battled to climb a flight of stairs because of the extra weight she carried. The president had paid lobola to her family in 2007, the year their daughter was born.
"It's a life-changing decision that I took when I hit the big 40 about two years ago," she said of her weight-loss programme. "I was 108kg. I'm down to 79.6kg. I'm not afraid to say it because I want to inspire South African women."
Her father, a professional chef, often prepares healthy meals at his daughter's Durban North home.
"We cook at home like any other household. I don't have chefs preparing my meals. I'm fortunate and blessed by the fact that my father is a chef by training. He can make just about anything."
She has maintained her new weight by eating five small meals a day and taking time off her busy schedule to work out on her treadmill and exercise bike three times a week.
"I feel so much more energetic now. I can do things that I couldn't do. When you talk to people, you must lead by example. I can't say obesity is a huge problem in our country when I'm not leading by example.
"In our culture, we have been so used to eating the wrong combination of food. In a typical day when you eat lunch or supper, it would be pap, it would be meat, potatoes ... For me, it's not so much about forgetting everything that you like, it's about moderation."
And thanks to his svelte wife, the president is also winning his battle against the bulge.
Madiba Zuma reluctantly disclosed that she had had a hand in ensuring that the president also trimmed down.
Last month, speculation about Zuma's health grew after he looked frail and appeared to have lost weight when he made his first public appearance after a 10-day break to deliver the state of the nation address.
Although the first lady steered clear of Zuma's health issues, she admitted: "The president has also had to lose weight because he was also overweight. Of course, I helped with his diet. I help him with everything and that includes the way he eats."
No details of the president's diet were disclosed, but Madiba Zuma attributed her own weight loss to eating more vegetables, lean meats, cutting back on traditional meals and taking regular exercise.
Through her foundation, which she established in 2010, she is tackling women's health issues. "It started by default, having hosted a conference of African first ladies on breast and cervical cancer in Cape Town in 2009. That is how I got to be exposed to see how big the problem is not only in South Africa, but in Africa as well.
"It is a disease that is largely preventable and it can be cured if detected early. It was clear to me that women are not going for screening on time. That is why cervical and breast cancer are the highest of the cancers that are killing our women."
She conducts regular talks with women throughout the country, emphasising the importance of being screened.
"It is mainly the lack of knowledge that is causing the problem. Coupled with that is the lack of access to quality healthcare, especially in the rural areas. That is where my passion lies - in the rural parts of our country where women think they are dying because of witchcraft, because they don't know much about the disease."
Coupled with her educational talks to empower women, Madiba Zuma often involves the Health Department to conduct screenings.
"There are some cultural barriers that one comes across. In the rural areas, a woman would have to seek permission from her husband to have her body examined.
"Now, if you are sitting here in the urban areas, you will think: 'Do I have to seek permission from my husband to have my boobs touched and checked by the medical professionals?' Those things you can't shy away from and have to take cognisance of. We have to ensure that we educate not only women, but men as well. They need to be part of the equation."