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South African president marries fourth wife

By Faith Karimi, CNN
April 21, 2012 -- Updated 1113 GMT (1913 HKT)
South African President Jacob Zuma and Bongi Ngema have dated for years, and have a son together
South African President Jacob Zuma and Bongi Ngema have dated for years, and have a son together
  • Jacob Zuma practices the Zulu tradition, which allows polygamy
  • Polygamy is legal in South Africa
  • His three other wives attended the wedding festivities
  • Zuma became president in 2009

(CNN) -- South African President Jacob Zuma married his longtime fiancee in a private ceremony at his rural home, making her one of his four current wives.

Zuma, 70, tied the knot with Bongi Ngema in a traditional ceremony Friday in the town of Nkandla.

It is the sixth marriage overall for the polygamous president - - one of his wives died while another one divorced him.

The president practices the Zulu tradition, which allows polygamy. While legal in South Africa, polygamy is losing popularity with the younger generation in the continent, where it is still practiced in some cultures.

Zuma -- who has 21 children -- embraces his culture, said Mac Maharaj, a government spokesman.

"One of the challenges we have in this world ... is that some communities are looked down as inferior and there's a major struggle to assert our culture," Maharaj said. "You don't have to be ashamed of your culture provided you don't intrude on other people's fundamental rights."

The bridal party took part in a celebratory dance after the traditional Zulu wedding that included the president's three other wives.

The government did not pay for the wedding festivities nor does it pay for the four spouses' expenses unless related to state duties, the spokesman said.

South Africa has no official position of first lady, and the wives maintain private homes, he said. Their benefits include a personal secretary, and they accompany the president during travel on a rotating basis.

"The new Mrs. Zuma had already been part of the spousal office machinery in terms of administrative support so there will be no changes due to the wedding," Maharaj said.

Ngema, an activist, dated the president for years and they have a 7-year-old son together.

Zuma became president in 2009. He is also married to Sizakele Zuma, Nompumelelo Ntuli-Zuma and Tobeka Madiba-Zuma.

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