Page last updated at 13:01 GMT, Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Zuma 'seeks to take third wife'

Jacob Zuma's wedding last year
Jacob Zuma's wedding last year was a lavish affair

South Africa's ruling African National Congress says there is "nothing sinister" in its leader Jacob Zuma wishing to take a third wife.

Local media have reported that his fiancee, Thobeka Mabhija, has made a traditional gift to his family, as part of the wedding preparations.

Mr Zuma married his second wife in January last year.

He is the strong favourite to become South Africa's next president, after elections due in the coming months.

Correspondents say it is common for leaders in Mr Zuma's Zulu community to have more than one wife.

'Private matter'

After initially denying the reports of a new wedding, the ANC on Tuesday issued a new statement which reads: "We see nothing sinister in Comrade Zuma wishing to enter into matrimony in line with African customary and traditional practice."

Thobeka Mabhija - fiancee
Nompumelelo Ntuli - married, January 2008
Sizakele Khumalo - married, 1973
Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma - divorced, 1998
Kate Mantsho Zuma - died, 2000
The statement also stresses that it is a private matter.

The Mercury newspaper reports that the family of Ms Mabhija, 34, delivered gifts including a goat, sheep and vegetables to Mr Zuma's family home, as part of the Zulu umbondo tradition ahead of a wedding.

This will be the fifth time Mr Zuma, 66, has been married.

He wed Nompumelelo Ntuli a year ago and has been married to Sizakele Khumalo since 1973.

He is divorced from Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, while Kate Mantsho Zuma died in 2000.

Mr Zuma was acquitted of rape in 2006 and still faces corruption charges.

His supporters say his legal problems are part of a political plot to prevent him becoming president.

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