“Angakayakhi indlu yokugugela… laba ngisabathathile nje,” he said which translates as: “I do have wives but I’m yet to marry my last one.”
It would be his fifth current wife.
The president was in a jovial mood when he made the comment which was greeted with applause, laughter and ululations by mostly senior citizens at an event in Savannah Park.
He was addressing a crowd during the annual presidential consultative session organised by the NGO Masiqhakaze (Let us shine) Women’s Organisation.
During the event Zuma pledged R50 000 to the organisation’s education fund which, he said, should primarily benefit orphans.
The NGO helps destitute and elderly women with healthcare and advises them on welfare issues. It also hosts a series of empowerment events and projects – including vegetable farming and sports programmes.
Zuma spoke about loving and respecting the elderly and the importance of their role in preserving family values. They were, he said, “fountains of knowledge” for future generations to draw from.
“When this project started, you could see that its driving force was love – this amazing love for grandmas and grandpas.”
“There aren’t many people like them,” he said, referring to the team from Masiqhakaze.
Zuma went on to say there were two stages when a person needed the most care and love – when they were born and when they were old.
“When you are born, you need 100% assistance… Only women have the ability to understand when a child speaks. They know when a child cries because it’s hungry, when it cries because it’s in pain, and requires love and care until it’s grown up…
“They must feel the love so they can pass that on to others. That’s a critical stage in a child’s life.
“The second critical phase is when a person needs to be cared for and loved… when they are in their old age,” he said.
In a light moment, while commending Nonhlanhla Khumalo from the Industrial Development Corporation for its involvement in the project, Zuma referred to her as “usibali” (sister-in-law).
His first wife, Sizakele MaKhumalo, he married in 1973.
On Tuesday Zulu cultural expert, Professor Sihawu Ngubane from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said when a man said he had not found indlu yokugugela, he meant he was going to marry another wife with whom he would grow old.
It was common among polygamist men to marry their last wife in their senior years and, in some instances, they chose to marry a sibling of an existing wife.
“They call the last wife indlu yokugugela (the home in which I will age in) because the responsibility of looking after the husband in their old age predominantly lies with the junior wife, who is often younger than the other wives and more agile in case there is an emergency,” he said.
Zulu traditional healer and head of the Nomkhubulwane Cultural Institute, Nomagugu Ngobese, said the motivation for taking another wife as men grew older was because the senior wives usually did not make time for their husband once they had children.
She said the senior wives often took it upon themselves to find the last wife.
Ngobese said people should not frown on Zuma’s intent to marry again because when he made “a marriage proposal the woman accepted willingly”.