Cope deplores polygamy after row over Zuma wife

THE Cope Women's Movement has called on progressive men to champion the campaign for the abandonment of polygamy or, alternatively, to allow women to have numerous partners.

The movement's call comes after weekend reports that President Jacob Zuma's second wife, Nompumelelo MaNtuli-Zuma, cheated on him with her late bodyguard, Phinda Thomo.

Cope women in the eThekwini region said the alleged affair showed very clearly the "hypocrisy and contradictions" of the patriarchal system of polygamy.

eThekwini secretary Nosiphiwo Mdlaka said they had always maintained that polygamy was an outmoded and discredited practice that undermined the dignity and status of women.

She said it had no place in a modern, progressive society.

"The facts are quite plain, the scandal centres on an alleged affair conducted by MaNtuli-Zuma," Mdlaka said. "The outrage of the Zuma family, and the fact that this is regarded as a scandal, shows the attitude towards women. A woman is always wrong. She has angered the ancestors for having an affair.

"But the man has numerous wives and girlfriends and - it is alleged - up to 50 children, almost half of them outside marriage. Who is at fault here?"

Mdlaka also accused Swaziland's King Mswati III for adhering to "this outdated system of oppression, in which women become the property of men and are expected to obey a lopsided set of rules.

"He suffered a similar fate when one of his wives was accused of cheating. Though we have never heard anything about King Goodwill Zwelithini's wives, we still call for the abandonment of polygamy," Mdlaka said.

She said any system that is skewed in favour of one gender is retrogressive and wrong.

"We are amazed that Zuma, who is supposed to free women from these outdated norms, seems to be taking us backward. And we challenge the ANC Women's League to stand up against Zuma's hypocrisy."

KwaZulu-Natal ANCWL secretary Nonhlanhla Khoza expressed shock at the comments from Cope.

"We are surprised by people who think they know the culture. But we cannot dwell much on what Cope is saying. They cannot set our agenda. We have a programme to help women," Khoza said.