To upset one of the president’s wives may be regarded as a misfortune. To upset two looks like carelessness. That was the predicament of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) recently when two ofJacob Zuma‘s spouses turned up for the same interview, the Mail & Guardian newspaper reported.
The national public broadcaster had sent separate invitations to Zuma’s third and fourth current wives, Tobeka Madiba and Bongi Ngema, hoping that one would agree to discuss gender issues to mark the beginning of women’s month in August, the Mail & Guardian said.
Both women arrived simultaneously at the SABC studios in Johannesburg. They did not take kindly to the clash and “there was a lot of shouting” in front of staff, the paper said.
Zuma, 72, a traditional Zulu polygamist, has been married six times and currently has four spouses and 21 children. One of his wives killed herself in 2000. His ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is now chair of the African Union and tipped as a possible future South African president.
Zuma’s unusual living arrangements have often led to speculation over which wife he will take to state dinners at the White House and elsewhere. But the fixture clash at the SABC, South Africa’s equivalent of the BBC, is new territory.
“It seems when Madiba and Ngema caught sight of one another in the TV newsroom on the third floor of the SABC building, both lost their temper,” the paper reported, citing an SABC staff member who witnessed the incident.
“The source said the first ladies accused the SABC of setting them up, and other top executives such as head of TV news Jimi Matthews had to come and intervene. One of Zuma’s wives threatened to call [SABC chief operating officer] Hlaudi [Motsoeneng] and believed this was a conspiracy against them. It was ugly and embarrassing.”
The programme had to be cancelled because Madiba and Ngema apparently refused to be interviewed either together or separately. Later, Matthews blamed the mixup on poor internal communication and said the broadcaster had apologised.
He told the Mail & Guardian: “There was some confusion as to how the invitations were extended because both ladies showed up on the day. The producers of the show did try to persuade them to go ahead with the show, but the ladies just left. They felt they were being set up. But they [the two first ladies] are best suited to answer.”
Neither Zuma’s spokesman, Mac Maharaj, nor SABC’s communications manager, Kaizer Kganyago, responded to requests for comment.