The Merry Wives of Nkandla: We know what they did this summer
In this Trumpian, boundary-free age of social media oversharing, ordinary citizens are able to follow elected officials as they party, attend fashion shows and record their culinary adventures in some of the country's top restaurants. We are even able to virtually enter the intimacy of the homes of those we have elected to govern. And while President Jacob Zuma suffered several crippling setbacks in December, including watching his former wife Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma lose the race to the presidency of the ANC to Cyril Ramaphosa, over at Chez Zuma, a parallel universe throbbed in the summer heat. Meanwhile, outside the circle of sunshine, second First Lady Nompumelelo Ntuli threatened to sue SAPS for accusing her of trying to poison her husband. By MARIANNE THAMM.
It is fourth First Lady, Madam Thobeka Madiba-Zuma, viewed as the most glamorous and outgoing of President's Zuma's wives, who is most comfortable sharing (and at times oversharing, as we shall see) intimate details of her relationship with No 1, their and his other children as well as the goings-on at the First Home, paid for by taxpayers, Nxamalala in the Nkandla foothills.
Madiba-Zuma, who employs hashtags as emotional punctuation marks, doesn't miss an opportunity to illustrate just how close she is to the President whom she married in 2010. The couple have three children. Madiba-Zuma has almost 90,000 followers on Instagram (firstladyzuma) compared to third First Lady, Madam Dr Bongi Ngema-Zuma, as she describes herself, (bongingema_zuma.foundation) who has 4,853 and seldom shares happy family snaps.
While most political pundits in South Africa spent December debating and discussing Zuma's possible fate in the aftermath of the defeat of his preferred candidate, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, it appears as if No 1 himself, who swapped snappy suits for a range of “Madiba print” lounge shirts, appeared unfazed by the political hurricane he had unleashed in the party, never mind the country. State Capture, State Smapture.
President Zuma limped into December trailing enough defeats to fell a lesser operator. Yet over at Chez Zuma, well at least judging by Madiba-Zuma's posts, there was nary a care in the world.
Here no one was talking about the Guptas, Commissions of Inquiry or recalls. No 1, surrounded by a bevy of smiling children, appeared to be taking it all in his stride. Look, there he is hugging one of the kids celebrating her birthday. Over here he sits in the shade watching dancers in traditional dress perform for him, albeit in an area cordoned off by police tape.
Explaining this to her followers, Madiba-Zuma wrote:
“Traditional Zulu dancing is an important part of the Zulu culture. Dancing performed during Ingoma, the annual traditional Zulu ceremony on the 1st of Jan. It is accompanied by vibrant singing. Yesterday was something quite spectacular, the men and women were fully dressed in their traditional group attires #proudly #zulu#traditional #dance.
On New Year's eve, Madiba-Zuma offered this bon mot:
“2018 is almost upon us, which means there are new possibilities, hopes, dreams and resolutions for the coming year. As we step into the New Year with renewed enthusiasm for the future to come, it is also a time to reflect on 2017 and the beautiful moments shared with family and friends. Express our gratitude for our loved ones and let them know how they've been an essential part of our lives. Sparing a thought for those who have supported me and my family through the difficult times. The spirit of New Year isn't just reminiscing about the past but also looking forward to the times ahead with the promise of love, unconditional support and tons of happiness. Forgive the people who may have hurt you, let go of some people and start 2018 on a bright and fresh note as there should be no room for hate in the new year. Happy 2018 and Lotsa Love #newyear#2018#love#laugh#live
On 4 January, Madiba-Zuma posted a series of photographs of her and Zuma celebrating their anniversary. The couple beamed at each other like love-struck teenagers.
The snaps were topped with a confectionary of verbal free association that reads:
“Till the end of time till the end of us. I will love you. Love is seeing an imperfect person perfectly. Wives Husbands, remove the robes of the courtroom judge. Instead, put on the robes of a painter capturing the beauty of a scene called Love. We want to fix people because we love them. But sometimes, our motives aren’t pure. We want to fix our loved ones because of shame. We’re ashamed of what other people will say about our kids, our siblings, our spouses, and our parents. Another is, we’re afflicted with the disease called comparisonities. Someone told me that marriage is like going to a restaurant. After you ordered your dish, you learn what the other table ordered, and suddenly regret what you ordered. Believe me, this urge to compare causes so much misery in marriages, leading to divorces. If you always compare your wife’s body with Beyonce she can’t compete. Many times, we compare our spouse to someone who doesn’t exist. People fantasize about Hollywood stars who aren’t real. Because all their blemishes were removed by photoshop. Before you get married, you should be very careful in evaluating your future spouse. When you get married, stop evaluating. Stop critiquing. It’s now time to stop fixing the other person and start appreciating the entire person in his/ her totality. Mthande mthande, umuntu wakho...Thank you Robbie Malinga #mthande #umuntu #wakho #love #special #solidasarock #anniversary
And then there was this whopper hands-down winner of the 2017 TMI Award:
“Its our Anniversary, I recall when we first met? twenty four years ago, how could I forget the way I felt when I laid my eyes on you. Knew it was someone who would change my life forever. It had to be my destiny. Cause I was made to love you, my hands to touch you, my arms to hold you, my lips to kiss you, my eyes to see you, my legs to stand and my time to spend with you forever. I remember you saying to your brothers, a long time ago, here is my future wife and the rest is history. Never knew that after so many years we would still be”.
Over on Madam Dr. Bongi Ngema-Zuma's feed, life was a little less No1-centric. On December 20 while out shopping with the kids, Ngema-Zuma wrote:
“The Prince & Princesses Christmas window shopping. Need to be sure before spending. The rand is not that strong hay (sic)”
Ngema-Zuma runs the Bongi Ngema-Zuma Foundation a “non-profit” organisation which she describes as having a “vision of seeing South Africa where diabetes ceases to be a killer due to lack of awareness, by supporting and helping people take control of diabetes.” From the foundation's website is appears Ngema-Zuma makes up the entire “board of trustees” all on her own.
Thobeka Madiba-Zuma's foundation website appears to have been suspended.
In 2014 Madiba-Zuma and Ngema-Zuma made headlines when they became involved in a “screaming match” in a studio at the SABC ahead of a Women's Day broadcast. Producers had made the grave mistake of sending two separate invitations, a sort of shotgun approach, hoping someone from the First Household would pitch.
Both did resulting in a frothy that played out in front of SABC staff. It was so ugly one of the Mrs Zumas apparently threatened to call uBaba's favourite, COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng.
Meanwhile, President Zuma's banished second First Lady, Nompumeleo Ntuli, cast into the wilderness after allegations that she had tried to poison No 1, has been advised by her legal team to sue the SAPS and the NPA after a docket was sent back to the Hawks because it was too flimsy to secure a conviction.
Ntuli in 2010 refused to attend No 1's marriage to fourth First Lady Madiba and in 2009, at Zuma's SONA, Madiba Zuma appeared to have attempted to shove Ntuli Zuma aside so that she would be photographed closest to No 1.
In 2009 Ntuli's bodyguard, Phinda Thomo, was found dead in the bath of his Soweto home in an apparent suicide. Rumours at the time were that Ntuli had had a child with Thomo. Thomo's family, including his mother Thenjiwa, said she did not believe her son killed himself.
In April 2010, MaNtuli was fined one goat, as punishment for her “bad behaviour” when Zuma announced he was marrying Madiba-Zuma.
The only one of Zuma's current wives who managed to stay out of the limelight is the country's First First Lady, Gertrude Sizakela Khumalo, the oldest of Zuma's wives who is more content to grow her vegetables and attend a nearby church than become embroiled in the glamorous life of being a member of the First Family, albeit not for very much longer.
For now, no one knows what Zuma's fate will be. Will he step down? Will he be impeached? Will he end up doing time or will he float in the Nkandla fire pool sipping cocktails (tested before being imbibed, we take it), watching the sun set over the South Africa he has left behind, while his considerable brood of children (those not in Dubai or in jail) surround him – and his wives push a steady stream of ecstatically happy Instagram posts out into the big, wide world?
Somehow, one gets the feeling that South Africa, while we will still have to maintain President Zuma'a large family, will not miss them that much at all. DM
Main photo: One of the posts by the fourth First Lady, Madam Thobeka Madiba-Zuma.