SOUTH AFRICA: Mr. Zuma’s “Lust-Child”

Whoever coined the compound adjective of a “Love-Child” almost definitely had other things in mind than what, on first blush, the meaning of the term appears to suggest. For the married men who often beget children out of wedlock are known to do so, nearly every one of them, hardly out of love for their partners in adultery/fornication but lust, which is precisely why the overwhelming majority of such culprits never leave their matrimonial pads, to begin with.

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Recently, for instance, it came to global media limelight that the substantive president of South Africa, Mr. Jacob Zuma, 67, had fathered a baby girl by a 39-year-old mother to whom the controversial leader of the African National Congress (ANC) is not married and has no known plan of marrying at the time of this writing (2/13/10). And on the latter score, it is significant to observe that Mr. Zuma already has three wives and 19 children, excluding the latest who is, of course, more than young enough to be the premier’s own granddaughter.

The problem with Mr. Zuma, it must be noted, is less of whether at his age he is extremely prurient or unsavorily sexually incontinent, than the ethical implications that his apparent promiscuity has for the youth of South Africa, a good number of whom clearly envisage the fire-spitting former anti-apartheid stalwart in terms of role-modeling. Upon the fear of being personally ridiculed, I feel strongly compelled to register a certain modicum of envy for the man who, at an age when an overwhelming majority of studs may fast be running out of steam, literally speaking, appears to be smack-dab at the peak of his virility.

Another problem here, though, verges on fact that with a life-expectancy average of about 55 years for black South-African males, it almost amounts to the unpardonably criminal for the 67-year-old Mr. Zuma to be so recklessly prurient, almost as if he had forever to live. And yes, granted the fact that President Zuma is no ordinary South African by any stretch of even the wildest imagination, still when it comes to active parental involvement in the lives of his own children, especially the latest one by Ms. Sonono Khoza, there is absolutely no guarantee, whatsoever, that even with all things being equal, that the aging premier is apt to witness either the adolescence or adulthood of his youngest daughter unless, of course, he can also claim to share the same genetic makeup or gene pool as the undisputed patriarch of post-apartheid South Africa, Mr. Nelson R. Mandela, of course.

What is also quite disturbing about the man is his apparent lackadaisical attitude towards the apocalyptic epidemic of HIV-Aids. Nearly four years ago when he was brought up on a charge of rape – the charge would later be dropped – Mr. Zuma smugly claimed to have had unprotected sex with the accused, a 30-something-year-old woman who had earlier on tested positive for the Aids virus. What was deeply worrisome at the time was less the mere fact of his stolid claim to having indulged in unprotected sex – Mr. Zuma claimed the encounter had been consensual – but his foolhardy assertion, against the best of known and available scientific evidence, that HIV-Aids was not infectious and therefore nothing to worry about.

There is also another character flaw about the man that makes him quite a character for those who either live or work in close proximity with him to be a little wary about the evidently roguish personal lifestyle of Mr. Zuma. And it regards the fact that in the two known cases in which his sexual indiscipline and ethic, in general, have been impugned, his alleged partners have either been the close relatives – in the case of the HIV-positive woman who was fast friends with Mr. Zuma’s own daughter – or the president’s friend; and on the latter score, of course, the reference is to a Mr. Khoza, one of the key organizers of this year’s World Cup tournament.

Such clearly reprehensible personal morals, coupled with the fact of the culprit’s being the most powerful politician of the land, perhaps even on the whole of the African continent itself, may give airtight credence to Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s passionate call for the ANC, on the eve of his assumption of the reins of governance, to deny Mr. Zuma the most respected job in the land.

Refreshingly, though, Mr. Zuma has lately and apparently thrown his full weight and support behind the generous provision of anti-retroviral drugs to HIV-positive patients, a policy that his immediate predecessor, Mr. Thabo Mbeki, had not heartily supported. But as to whether his latest apparently salutary change of policy has anything to do with the South African premier’s evidently reckless coital attitude, is anybody’s good guess.

*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is a Governing Board Member of the Accra-based Danquah Insttitute (DI), the pro-democracy think tank, and the author of 21 books, including “Ghanaian Politics Today” (Atumpan Publications/, 2008). He is also a former Honorary Member of the New York City College Chapter of the African National Congress (1988-90).