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S.Africa’s Zuma marries a fourth wife

South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma married his fourth current wife on Friday, marking the sixth time the 70-year-old has tied the knot.

“President Jacob Zuma has today, 20 April 2012, married Ms Bongi Ngema at a traditional ceremony known as umgcagco at his home in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal,” his office said in a statement.

“A wedding reception will be held this evening, and tomorrow there will be the umabo, where the bride showers the groom’s family with gifts.”

The bridal party took part in a traditional Zulu celebratory dance after tying the knot in Zuma’s rural home village where the leader’s other recent marriages have featured him dancing in leopard skins with a warrior’s shield.

The couple have a seven-year-old son and the businesswoman and long-time fiance joins Zuma’s three other wives to become one of four first ladies with all spouses attending Friday’s marriage, the presidency said.

The wedding is Zuma’s third in just over four years and the second since coming to power in 2009 as the country’s first president with multiple wives, something that is legal under liberal post-apartheid laws.

In all, he has married six times. One of his wives has died, and another — home affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma — divorced him.

With the state having to nearly double the spousal budget to more than two million dollars after he took office, the presidency has stressed that Zuma will pay for the weekend celebrations and that his wives live in private homes.

South Africa has no legally defined “First Lady” but their benefits include a personal secretary and researcher, domestic and international travel, equipment, and a daily allowance during official trips.

“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,” said the statement.

The wives have no specific roles or responsibilities but they are expected to support the president at state and official functions, with Ngema accompanying him to France last year.

While legal, polygamy is becoming less popular in South Africa where modernity and Western lifestyles have taken root.

A survey in 2010 found that nearly three-fourths of South Africans disapprove of polygamy. Among women, 83 percent disapproved.