/ 5 June 2010

Zuma faces another family scandal

Zuma Faces Another Family Scandal

President Jacob Zuma’s second wife Nompumelelo Ntuli has a 13-year-old son with South African actor Joe Mafela.

The Mail and Guardian has learned the teenager is being raised by MaNtuli’s mother in Maphumulo, as the Zuma family had not been informed about him when the president married her.

A source close to MaNtuli told M&G that Mafela, who is known to the Zuma family as one of MaNtuli’s celebrity friends, visits the child at least once every six months not to raise any suspicions in the family.

According to the source, Zuma’s older children were the first ones to find out about the identity of the child but decided to keep it quiet to protect their father.

“The child would get invited to family functions, but he was kept far away from Zuma,” said the source.

Mafela, best known for his role as S’dumo in the 1980’s television sitcom Sgudi ‘Snaysi, was spotted with MaNtuli last year at the First Lady hosted a lunch at the African Centre.

When approached for comment on Saturday, Zuma’s spokesperson Vincent Mashego said he would not comment on the president’s personal life.

Efforts to get hold of Mafela drew a blank.

Another source, who was friends with the First Lady at the time, said that Mafela and MaNtuli had an on-and-off relationship for years and that the two had decided to stay close friends after the child was born because Mafela was married at the time.

“Joe wasn’t going to lose his family over this even though he loved her. The matter was resolved in a civilised manner and that’s why they stayed close friends,” said the source.

Meanwhile, media reports have said that MaNtuli is pregnant after an affair with her bodyguard.

The Saturday Star newspaper said the National Intelligence Agency had been called in to investigate the reports, which surfaced this week alleging MaNtuli slept with Phinda Thomo, a member of her security detail.

Thomo killed himself when the pregnancy became obvious, local media said.

Zuma’s office broke its silence on Friday, saying the reports violated his privacy and were part of a coordinated smear campaign.

The reports, which started mid-week in the Zulu-language Ilanga newspaper, are based on an anonymous letter written by “concerned family members” and leaked to several South African media outlets. “The reports appear to be part of an ongoing and malicious campaign to undermine the right of the president and his family to privacy and dignity,” the Presidency said in a terse statement.

“President Zuma continues to be seized with matters of state and will not be diverted from his duties,” it added. “He will not dignify such gossip with a response.”

Zuma, whose colourful private life has often overshadowed his status as the leader of Africa’s largest economy, is due to return on Saturday from a state visit to India, where he was accompanied by MaNtuli.

Whatever the truth, the latest scandal to emanate from the 68-year-old’s complex marital situation is likely to cause embarrassment in South Africa as it prepares to host the Soccer World Cup, which kicks off in Johannesburg on June 11.

The Presidency statement failed to stop papers such as the Star, which said it had a copy of the letter, publishing lurid details.

The M&G newspaper said MaNatuli “went beserk” when she learned Zuma was taking a third wife in January.

The Star said Zuma was “incensed” by the revelations and had ordered a family summit at his home in KwaZulu-Natal province.

In February, Zuma confirmed he had fathered an illegitimate child with the daughter of Irvin Khoza, a close friend and head of the World Cup local organising committee.

Zuma has been married five times, but currently only has three wives. He has 20 children. – Reuters