JOHANNESBURG – President Jacob Zuma already has three wives and numerous children. He has survived a trial on charges that he raped the daughter of an old friend, and in a country with one of the highest HIV rates on Earth, he has been forced to apologize publicly for having unprotected sex.
Acknowledging this week that he had fathered one more child, by many counts his 20th, outside of his three marriages has launched another sex scandal.
Details of the 67-year-old president’s sex life contradict the government’s HIV/AIDS campaign, an important element of which is reducing rampant promiscuity. But the scandal appears to have hit a deeper nerve: a sense Zuma crossed an invisible line.
The birth of his latest child unsettled his core supporters, traditionalists who accept polygamy but regard having a child outside of marriage as improper.
Zuma issued a brief statement Wednesday acknowledging paternity and attacking the media.
That only made things worse: Critics attacked his view that the media had no right to probe his private life.
The mother of his latest child, a 4-month-old girl, is Sonono Khoza, a bank official and daughter of an old friend. Because of strictures in Zulu culture on having a child outside of multiple marriages, Zuma had to pay damages to the family.