Why do we fuss about Jacob Zuma’s pending marriage to Nonkanyiso Conco? Why don’t we switch off, saying this is a private matter between adults, nothing to do with anyone else?
For decades Zuma has been one of this country’s most visible public figures. When he resigned as president on Valentine’s Day, he did not automatically qualify for complete privacy. His shadow hangs over KwaZulu-Natal, where supporters sing – “What has Zuma done wrong?” – echoing his public utterances.
And his influence is discernible in the turmoil in North West, whose premier is a Zuma supporter. Zuma’s name remains in the news.
Since his resignation, Zuma has not sought to escape the limelight. He has continued to embrace public engagements and his ceaseless legal attempts to stay out of jail, using taxpayers’ money, will ensure media attention. He is a public figure without office.
Conco has reportedly been involved with Zuma since she was 19. She must have known the relationship would attract media attention.
Although the age gap between Zuma and Conco is substantial, it is not by itself newsworthy. In the past week, there have been daily reports of relationships where one party is 50 or more years older than the other.
Nor should Zuma’s well-known penchant for polygamy be particularly newsworthy at this stage. It’s old news. Who did not know that Zuma was a polygamist? Why should we be surprised when he marries again?
If we listed all the possible reasons why this matter is the subject of so much attention, we might find not one factor would be enough on its own. For example, he is known to have fathered more than 20 children. So what? Others have done the same.
Even his infamous infidelities – including those with daughters of friends – do not distinguish him from certain other men.
And yet this story has people talking. We know from his 2006 rape trial, where he was acquitted, that Zuma is incautious about unprotected sex. The persecution of his rape accuser, “Khwezi”, has not been erased from the public mind, where there will be some blurring of the women he is known to have had sex with.
Before his encounter with Khwezi, Zuma was, ironically, leader of South Africa’s Moral Regeneration Movement.
His new partner, Conco, was reportedly an advocate of abstinence and virginity testing. She was an office-bearer for She Conquers, a campaign to combat HIV-infection in young women.
According to a representative, She Conquers promotes economic empowerment and self-dependency of young women, to eliminate reliance on “blessers”. So Mr and the new Mrs Zuma seem well matched in hypocrisy. “Do as I say, not as I do.”
Zuma attracts attention – not for any one reason. To the list above we can add the arms deal, Schabir Shaik, the Guptas, state capture and more. Take your pick. His name is synonymous with news.
No wonder there is interest in his latest bride.