Zuma's Children 'Latest Pawns of Smear Campaign'
Durban woman said to be mom No 9
ANC deputy president and presidential hopeful Jacob Zuma is allegedly being targeted in a fresh smear campaign - this time about the number of children he has fathered.
Political sources say this may be the latest in a string of smears and counter-smears by cohorts of the various presidential aspirants.
Zuma's office has declined to comment on a report in a weekly national magazine which alleges that Zuma may soon father his 18th child by a ninth woman.
You magazine reported last week that an "elegant" 35-year-old Durban woman was expecting to give birth soon and the child would be Zuma's 18th.
The Cape Argus has been informed that certain individuals in the "Mbeki camp" tried to persuade certain other newspapers to publish the story prior to the ANC's recent policy conference.
Furthermore, sources have disclosed that the newspapers were offered the story strictly on condition that they published it in time to coincide with the recent ANC policy conference.
You Editor Esmaré Weideman told the Cape Argus: "We obviously realised what a contentious story this would be. But we decided that we fully trust the sources which gave the story to us. And we believe it's a matter of public interest that this story should be aired, so we decided to run it."
Political analyst and media expert Anton Harber, of Wits University, said: "I don't think there's a privacy problem. He's a leading public figure and political office-bearer. I would have thought that how many children you have is or should be a matter of public record - assuming it's true.
"There's no defence of the story if it's wrong. But if it's true it tells you something about the man's character and his suitability for political office. It confirms the attitude towards women that he showed during his rape trial."
Recent political developments described as legitimate by some, but as smear campaigns by others, have included the so-called "hoax e-mails" saga, the rape charge against Zuma, the so-called "Zuma assassination plot" and claims of financial irregularity levelled at senior SACP leaders aligned to Zuma.
Political analyst Aubrey Matshiqi, of the Centre for Policy Studies in Johannesburg, said about the extent of current smear campaigns: "This is the battle for mindshare - which is a part of the succession battle.
"Those engaged in this battle on behalf of the dominant factions try to create and manage perceptions in a way that undermines or promotes particular personal interests. They attempt to paint the other as something politically grotesque and therefore not deserving of being elected ANC president in December (2007) and head of state in 2009."
On the possible impact of the revelation on Zuma's political future, he said: "Whether the revelation (about the number of children Zuma may have fathered) is based on fact or not is less important than the impact that it will either have on his political fortunes or is intended to have on his political fortunes.
"What I suspect is that those who support him already will not be affected - will not change their view of him. But amongst those who do not support him, or have even developed a strong antipathy towards him, such reports will simply reinforce those antipathies."
The You magazine report does not confirm how many of the reported "nine women" Zuma was or is married to.
Approached for comment on the report, Zuma's spokeswoman, Nonto Kozo, told the Cape Argus: "We are out of the country. We have no idea."
The Cape Argus asked Kozo whether Zuma would be prepared to divulge such details, including how many children he had fathered. At the time of going to press, she had not sent a reply.
ANC spokesman Tiyani Rikhotso said on Friday the party would not comment on any aspect of the matter.
It is public knowledge that the list of Zuma's past and present wives includes Sizakele, who lives at Zuma's home at Inkandla in northern KwaZulu-Natal.
Another was Foreign Affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, with whom he has four children, but from whom he is divorced.
Another wife was Kate, with whom Zuma had five children. She committed suicide on December 8, 2000.
At the time, Zuma reportedly had at least three other wives.
With acknowledgement to Murray Williams and Cape Argus.