proud polygamist

Zinhle Mapumulo

Zinhle Mapumulo

South Africans are taught about the dangers of having multiple sex partners in an HIV-ravaged country, but a respected traditional leader has said that he is a proud polygamist and "not about to change".

Chief of the Bapedi ba Mmafefe and national organiser of the Congress of Traditional Leaders (Contralesa), Kgosi Setlamorago Thobejane, said: "I am proud to be part of the system of polygamy."

He was speaking at the launch of the OneLove campaign at Ubuntu Kraal in Orlando, Soweto, on Saturday.

"There is a contradiction between the OneLove campaign and polygamy. Yes, it would be ideal to have a world where men and women can have a one-to-one relationship. But we have more women than men and, if we tried that system, we would be leaving some women outside of nature."

Contralesa is a partner in the OneLove campaign to discourage people from having more than one sexual partner .

"Contralesa has strong roots in polygamy and despite the contradictions, this institution is committed to the campaign. The discussion about polygamy as one of the factors that increases our chances to get HIV puts the congress in the spotlight. But Contralesa is part of South Africa and must therefore discuss the issues that are being raised for the benefit of the country.

"We must seek to balance our culture and tradition with the need to fight HIV and Aids.

"People must practise safe sex whether in a polygamy marriage or not. If you decide to have children and are in a polygamy marriage, go for an HIV test and know your status. If you are negative keep it that way by remaining faithful to your partners," Setlamorago said.

Health Minister Barbara Hogan, pictured, was also at the launch. She said: "It is going to be very difficult to stop the spread of HIV in our country unless people understand that having multiple partners at the same time puts them at much higher risk of getting the virus.

"We need to make it possible for people to give up these kinds of sexual arrangements."