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By Mphutlane wa Bofelo | Feb 10, 2010 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

The initial response of the ANC to claims that President Jacob Zuma has fathered a child out of wedlock with Sonono Khoza, and paid inhlawulo (damages) to the family, was that there is nothing in the Constitution that says two adults cannot have consensual sex outside marriage.

This seems to suggest that the practices and behaviour of politicians and public servants should be judged only against the Constitution.

The implication is that unwritten societal conventions, moral principles, ethical codes and established cultural norms should not be an issue when it comes to our assessment of public personalities.

The essence of this position is that the cultural relevance and moral corrections of the actions of political leaders should not be taken into account.

This is declaring that the only barometer of whether the behaviour and actions are of public concern should be their socio-economic implications and political consequences. Yet, when feminists charge that polygamy constitutes an attack on the rights and dignity of women, Zuma and his loyalists seek succour in "respect for cultural diversity".

They argue that political-ideological positions and the behaviour of individuals should be seen within cultural contexts.

"This is my culture," said Zuma tongue-in-cheek.

But people should not use culture selectively, utilising only aspects of that culture or interpretations thereof which suit their personal situation.

According to the traditions of the Zulus and African culture as a whole, premarital and extramarital sex are taboo. Even a man who chooses to be polygamous cannot have sex with the woman until they are married as per tradition.

In the case of Zuma, he is reported to have fathered children with some of the women outside marriage, paying ilobolo, and marrying them only afterwards.

Zuma has confirmed that he has fathered yet another baby out of wedlock. This would mean that he has acted contrary to the ethics and values of the same Zulu-African traditions that he projects himself as championing.

Even if we were to hold that the president's sexual-marital affairs were completely private matters, the public still has cause to be alarmed. The president has more than twice acted contrary to a vow he made in a court of law that he will never commit the "indiscretion" of having sex without a condom.

In view of the scourge of HIV-Aids it is suicidal for anyone to have unprotected extramarital sex. To do so with several women at a time is - for lack of a better word - "genocidal".

Zuma is a mortal being and we are not angels who want to impeach him for committing the same mistake more than once, or failing to honour a public apology and oath he made in a court of law.

All that was needed was for Zuma to unconditionally apologise and for the presidency and the ruling party to issue a statement sending a clear message that unprotected premarital and extramarital sexual intercourse is undesirable health-risking behaviour.

What is disquieting is the nerve of ANC spin doctors to dismiss public concerns about Zuma's apparent inability to stick to the ABC of the anti-HIV campaign.

The reality is that such concerns are not merely moralistic but are taking into account the fact that HIV-Aids is a serious health and socio-economic issue that requires firm political leadership and exemplary role models.

Unprotected sex outside marriage is the main driver of the HIV-Aids epidemic.

The ANC's response to Zuma's extramarital sexual affairs and the message his actions send on the fight against HIV-Aids was obscurantist and denialist.

It is in stark contrast to the fanatical calls from the Young Communist League for former president Thabo Mbeki to be brought before an international court of justice for the "genocidal" HIV-Aids policies pursued during his tenure in office.

Suddenly when Zuma - forced by public uproar - ultimately apologises, the alliance partners jump into praise-singing, going to town about how the "unsolicited, voluntary apology" reflects that Zuma is a man of humility and integrity.

This is duplicity and mediocrity. If Zuma is a man of integrity for making the apology, then the whole alliance is without integrity, because it saw nothing wrong in Zuma's conduct to warrant criticism from them as long as the Constitution was not being contradicted.

Malema's response that he could not comment on the matter because Zuma is his elder also smacks of double standards.

Not so long ago, the ANC Youth League called the male members of Helen Zille's MECs her concubines. Is this double standards or pure psychopathy?

l Bofelo is Sopa KZN political commissar.


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