South Africa's polygamous President Jacob Zuma married his fourth current wife on Friday, the sixth time the 70-year-old has tied the knot.
Africa is a very interesting place, quite fascinating I often say. A continent filled with contrasts. A continent made up of double standards particularly when the issue of gender roles come into play. On April 20, 2012, President Jacob Zuma, a man of high social standing got married for the sixth time to his fourth wife and society barely said a word. I've often wondered in the deep recesses of the night what will happen if this were the reverse. That is, a woman of high political position in Africa, decides to get married multiple times and not neccesarily at the same time. News networks will be agog as society will jump in to label and preserve their ideology of what women are supposed to be.
Many women will term what the fourth wife is doing as simply greed. You know, wanting to reap where one didn't sow. Wanting to get what she didn't cry for. But, I think using greed as an explanation is simply too simplistic. We have to look at her placement in society, an African society and what her marriage into power brings on. As much as we do not want to say this but really when you take away the lime light and our supposed modernity - a woman in Africa is authentically held in respect when she is married with children and running her home quietly. Then she is viewed as trustworthy and responsible enough to hold any political or economic position that she wants. This is keeping it real. Maybe we really need to start looking at what we consider as being 'right' and 'fair'? As we look into those terms, let's also look at what we consider as being empowerment? Are our modern African women empowered enough to go for what they want regardless of how society views them? Is empowerment only via marriage?
Now, the question is what will make a man who should be thinking about retirement decide to take on a young wife as his fourth wife? Beyond, the fact that he can because Africa gives him that allowance and many more. Maybe, he is suffering from the 'trophy wife' disease. We see basketballers, musicians and those who live in the public gaze, often do things like that. Maybe he needs some young, eye candy on his arm to venerate him and make him seem like a man in the public. Or maybe, the explanation is pretty simple - maybe he fell in love for the sixth time. Now, not knocking love because love can happen to anyone at anytime and anywhere but I still wonder if he was a woman will we give him second or even the sixth chance.
You see Polygamy, a marriage institution in which a man can take on as many wives as he wants even if he can't afford it - is a system that has existed in Africa for millions of years. A system that will keep on existing for many more years to come. But, the original intent of polygamy has been lost. It was believed that in agricultural society - a polygamous household was created to help in the farms but we do not have that many agricultural societies anymore. So why is this still prevalent and being championed by powerful African men? I think the answer lies in greed and power. Men and Women.
Written By Pamela Stitch
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 02 May 2012 03:53 )