Page last updated at 11:28 GMT, Thursday, 24 September 2009 12:28 UK

SA man to wed four women at once

Jacob Zuma at his wedding ceremony last year
President Jacob Zuma is among prominent Zulus to have several wives

A South African man is planning to marry four women in a two-day wedding ceremony, starting on Sunday.

Zulu businessman Milton Mbele, 44, is to marry the women aged between 22 and 35 in Ntlane village in Kwa-Zulu Natal and says he loves them all.

The brides are to take their vows together, answering "we do" when asked if they take Mr Mbele as their husband.

Polygamy is common in parts of Kwa-Zulu Natal but only the first wife is legally recognised.

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma, an ethnic Zulu, has three wives.

But it is not usual to marry more than one woman at the same time.

The four brides - Thobile Vilakazi, Zanele Langa, Baqinisile Mdlolo and Smangele Cele - all know each other.

Mr Mbele has paid a total of 33 cows in ilobolo, or bride-price, for his soon-to-be-brides.

He paid 10 cows for Ms Vilakazi, seven for Ms Langa and eight each for Ms Mdlolo and Ms Cele, reports the Sowetan newspaper.

"We don't see anything unusual about our marriage. We agreed to marry him at the same time because we love him," Miss Cele told the newspaper.

"It does not matter if we have marriage certificates or not, what is important is that he loves us."

'Making history'

The ceremony begins with a traditional event on Sunday followed by the exchange of vows in a local church.

"Marrying many wives is our culture," Mr Mbele said.

"However, what is different is to marry all of them at once. I am doing this because I love all these women."

He said the response he has received to his wedding plans has been amazing.

"Many people are looking forward to see me making history."

Mr Mbele is said to own about 100 cows and 250 goats, livestock is seen a sign of wealth in rural traditional communities.

The BBC's Pumza Fihlani in Johannesburg says the first wife is traditionally seen as the wife who "keeps the family together".

She usually commands more authority than the other wives in the polygamous marriage.

When a man wants to take another wife, the first wife is usually involved in the discussions on who should be married and often needs to give her blessing.

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