I often wonder why people are shocked, shocked — Captain Renault-like — to discover that modern football is a malodorous cesspit teeming with leeches and crooks, or that Tony Blair is a congenital liar not worthy of any position except that of orderly in a prison gym. The latest shock is the discovery that Jacob Zuma, the President of South Africa, has fathered his 20th child. I don’t like football players, owners of football teams and Tony Blair, but I do like Jacob Zuma, a polygamous roly-poly Zulu who preaches safe sex by advising those indulging to take a shower once they’ve finished the business. Zuma is a proud Zulu traditionalist who doesn’t much believe in white man’s science, and who has been married a total of five times, has had children by seven women, and has three wives at present. His latest child’s mother is not one of his wives, which is fine according to Zulu custom, especially as Zuma has provided ‘inhlawulo’, the customary payment by a Zulu man after he fathers a child out of wedlock.
Actually, I envy Zuma, and would love to provide inhlawulo to not a small number of ladies, starting with the deputy editor of The Spectator the second she gives me the green light. Alas, all I get is a red signal despite the fact that my wallet is bulging with prospective inhlawulo pounds and dollars. (No one accepts euros any more, especially not for inhlawulo purposes.). Mind you, we are all Zulus now. Didn’t the ghastly John Terry pay inhlawulo to that cute little French mademoiselle? Not to mention the poor little Greek boy. (Who didn’t pay.)
About 25 years ago, an English gel demanded inhlawulo from me before she had come up with the goods. I refused because I believed it to be a false alarm. Her father wrote to mine demanding inhlawulo and my poor old dad blew a gasket. ‘You have contributed nothing to the family’s fortune except for outrageous bills and expenses,’ he wrote to me. ‘Am I now supposed to pay for your incapability of keeping your pants on?’ But all’s well that ends well. It was a false alarm and the lady went on to marry a big shot — a far, far better thing to do than have a Taki child, inhlawulo or no inhlawulo.
What I find surprising is the reaction to the president’s newest issue among South African big shots. The acting head of the Christian Democratic Party, the Revd Theunis Botha, called Mr Zuma a ‘Tiger Woods, Bill Clinton and Henry VIII all in one’. The reverend did not mention John Terry, which leads me to believe he speaks with forked tongue, as Terry will be playing for England in the World Cup this summer. If one mentions boys who like slappers, they’ve got to include the ex-England captain. And it gets worse. In a front-page commentary with the huge headline ‘Shame of the Nation’, a Sowetan newspaper said that in other democracies President Zuma would be forced to resign, but the paper did not mention which democracies. Not in France, that’s for sure, where past presidents have had children out of wedlock with much younger women, and once the news got out, their popularity skyrocketed. Certainly not in Italy, or Greece, and most likely not in Spain or Portugal.
A couple of weeks ago in Davos, the writer Fareed Zakaria asked President Zuma point-blank about polygamy, and whether the Zulu thought the custom was unfair to women. Zuma answered like a true male: ‘As my culture, polygamy does not take anything from me, from my political beliefs. The problem is created by people who believe their culture is the only right one, the only one accepted by God.’ I’ve met Fareed Zakaria and he is a very civilised and pleasant man, but I think he was wrong to ask a Zulu that question. The Zulus are great traditionalists and are a brave people. Chief Buthelezi came over for both Jimmy Goldsmith’s and John Aspinall’s funerals. If the Zulus like polygamy, who are we to question them? If anything, we should demand that the Saudis allow women their rights, and, incidentally, instead of locking them up come up with some serious inhlawulo.
Back in 2005 Zuma was tried for rape and found not guilty. He was accused by a family friend much younger than himself. Again, his defence was — how shall I put it? — manly, claiming that the sex had been consensual and that, once the accuser had crawled underneath the covers of his bed, he gave in and had sex with her, fearing that she would otherwise accuse him of rape! (I’ll have to remember that one in the unlikely event of ever being accused of rape myself.)
But let’s be serious for a moment. There are 500 murders a day in South Africa, the days of white South Africans are numbered, the great murderer and crook Robert Mugabe is next door and tolerated, and the last thing we should be worrying about is polygamy, which is legal in South Africa. Plus the poor guy paid inhlawulo, which is a damn sight more than many so-called upper-class folk right here in Londonistan are doing as I write. Pay your inhlawulo and then you can sneer is my motto.