It’s culture, it’s private, it’s acceptable, it’s not, whatever it is, it’s news. Our beloved and sometimes hated president - Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma - is definitely controversial. The question is, has he stepped over the line or has the media intruded on the private affairs of this South African icon?
The sexual affairs of our polygamous 67-year-old president are of high priority media attention, resulting in an influx of newspaper front-page splashes, creating a national brouhaha with every occurrence. Mr Zuma’s latest scandal pertains to his affair with Sonono Khoza, daughter of the owner of the Orlando Pirates FC, Chairman of the 2010 Soccer World Cup Local Organizing Committee and friend of Mr Zuma, Irvin Khoza. Mr Zuma’s relationship with Ms Khoza has in consequence resulted in the birth of their illegitimate child.
The detection of their daughter's involvement has initiated a furore of criticism towards the president, but in contrast to that it has also inspired the president’s acolytes to rush to his defence.
African National Congress (ANC) spokesperson, Jackson Mthembu in response to media’s criticism of the president had questions as to, “Why should it make headlines?” Mthembu expressed that the ANC feels that the ‘attack’ on President Zuma by the media was “unjustified” and “disingenuous”. In the eyes of the ANC and the supporters of the ‘love child’, the ‘love child’ should remain a private matter between Mr Zuma and the Khoza family, furthermore Mthembu states, "By being involved with any other person, President Zuma is not guilty of any offence and he has not breached our Constitution or any of our laws."
Conversely, other political parties and a sizeable percentage of the South African public deem Mr Zuma to be a public figure and a representation of South Africa; therefore his private affairs are of public concern. Helen Zille, Leader of the Democratic Alliance (DA), has concluded that this issue identifies the “profoundly problematic” position of the ANC and it “demonstrates that the ruling party does not understand the problem, or the relationship between public office and private behaviour.”
ANC Women’s League and the ANC Youth League have come to the president’s defence and are in agreement with the ANC. On the contrary the Women’s provincial leader of the Congress of the People (COPE), Clara Motau, proclaims that Zuma’s “affection to making love to every woman” is outdated, baseless and blatantly demeaning to women. Furthermore Motau accuses Mr Zuma of Making South Africa the “laughing stock of the human race.”
The President of COPE, Terror Lekota, is in utter disagreement with the actions of Mr Zuma. Lekota addressed an issue regarding the ‘Love Child’, which has caused quite a stir amongst the more traditional South African citizens. Lekota stated that Jacob Zuma’s use of African customs as a smokescreen for his actions is unacceptable. Moreover, Lekota stated, “polygamy is not promiscuity and his behaviour is not justifiable under any circumstances.”
Prof Franz Kruger, who is involved in the media ethics department of the University of Witwatersrand, put forth that the situation cannot be resolved clandestinely. Sufficient public interest has arisen to warrant the private life of Mr Zuma to become a matter of discussion.