Jacob Zuma steals Nelson Mandela’s spotlight?

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South African President, Jacob Zuma, has been accused of stealing the spotlight from Nelson Mandela on the twentieth anniversary of his release from prison. But if the South African leader’s popularity has skyrocketed in the past few weeks, it is certainly not linked to his official presidential duties.

Just under a month ago, a secret child he fathered with his close friend’s daughter was publicly revealed, leading to him apologizing.

But on Wednesday, on the eve Zuma’s State of the Nation address, it emerged that he has two other hidden daughters, aged 12 and 7, with prominent South African businesswoman identified as Nonkululeko Mhlongo.

Jacob Zuma is not married to Mhlongo.

The latest revelation not only puts another damper on a damage control planned by his office ahead of the all-important State of the Nation address Thursday evening, but also coincides with nationwide celebrations marking the 20th anniversary of now frail 91-year-old Nelson Mandela’s release from a 27 jail term.

Several publications have quoted a presidential aide as saying that there
was “nothing new about Mhlongo and her kids”.

“They are part of the 20 children and have always been. The eldest
even attended her dad’s inauguration. There is nothing secret or
sensitive about her. What is the hullabaloo about… The kids have always been part of the extended family. JZ [Jacob Zuma] doesn’t hide his kids.”

The daughters are said to have been born on January 18, 1998, and
September 19, 2002.

Papers say Zuma’s affair with Mhlongo, 49, spanned a period when his
personal life was in turmoil, during which his second wife, Nkosazana
Dlamini-Zuma, divorced him in June, 1998, and his third wife, Kate,
committed suicide in December, 2000.

Meanwhile, poll results on Zuma’s popularity released today show that
most South Africans believe he is doing a good job.

The Ipsos Markinor poll found that 77 percent of South Africans felt Zuma was doing his job well and 70 percent felt the government as a whole was performing well.

“At the start of 2010, President [Jacob] Zuma is in an enviable
position in terms of his public rating… This is the highest rating for a president since May 2006 and will more than likely shore up his credentials in the light of the tough public relations press he is currently receiving about his personal life,” researchers noted.

The study found that while Zuma’s personal life was the “constant
focus of the media”, the South African public was “clearly positive”
about his performance at work.

“… Only time will tell whether the current PR [public relations] scandal will somewhat erode this high measure of support or have little or no effect at all,” the researchers said.

But for the time being, the timing of the new scandal is not sitting well with those who think the day should be all about the Nelson Mandela vision. “This day should be an opportunity for us to reflect on our rainbow nation’s past and future and not on Zuma’s excesses,” said a facebook user.

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