South Africa’s real influencers: Meet the women behind our most powerful politicians

Jacob Zuma four of his wives, From LEFT: Bongi Ngema - Zuma, MaNtuli Zuma, Tobeka Madiba - Zuma and MaKhumalo Zuma. File picture

Jacob Zuma four of his wives, From LEFT: Bongi Ngema - Zuma, MaNtuli Zuma, Tobeka Madiba - Zuma and MaKhumalo Zuma. File picture

Published Jun 14, 2024


Let's take a look at the wives of some of South Africa’s most prominent politicians.

In South Africa, the spotlight often falls on our political leaders, but the women behind these influential men also deserve recognition.

Many of these wives have their own impressive careers and play significant roles in their families and communities.

Let's take a look at the wives of some of South Africa’s most prominent politicians.

The Economic Freedom Front:

Julius Malema and Mantwa Matlala

Julius Malema, the formidable EFF leader, shows a softer side when it comes to his wife, Mantwa Matlala. They have been married since December 2014, but their relationship began much earlier when Mantwa was still in school.

On her birthday last year, Malema expressed his deep affection for her on Instagram, praising her as a wonderful wife and mother. Together, they have two sons, Munzhedi, born in 2016, and Kopani, born in 2018. Mantwa is also stepmother to Malema’s first son, Ratanang, from a previous relationship.

Despite her husband's high-profile career, Mantwa is a career-driven woman herself, working as an accountant in Johannesburg.

Mantwa Matlala and Julius Malema. File picture

The African National Congress:

Cyril Ramaphosa and Tshepo Motsepe

Tshepo Motsepe, South Africa's first lady, prefers to keep a low profile. Born in Soweto, she is highly educated, holding a medical degree from the University of KwaZulu-Natal and a master’s in public health from Harvard School of Public Health.

Tshepo and Cyril Ramaphosa have four children together. She comes from a well-connected political family: her father was Chief Augustine Butana Chaane Motsepe, her brother is mining magnate Patrice Motsepe, and her sister Bridgette Radebe is married to ANC politician Jeff Radebe. Tshepo is Ramaphosa’s third wife.

Tshepo Motsepe. Picture: Flickr

The Democratic Alliance:

John Steenhuisen and Terry Kass Beaumont

Terry Kass Beaumont married DA leader John Steenhuisen in 2014, and they have one daughter together. Their relationship began when Steenhuisen was the leader of the DA in KwaZulu-Natal and Kass Beaumont was the party's provincial spokesperson. At the time, she was married to Michael Beaumont, the Managing Director of the DA in KZN and Gauteng. Currently, she works as a non-profit organisation consultant.

Terry Steenhuisen. Picture: Instagram

uMkhonto we Sizwe:

Jacob Zuma and his six wives of Nklandla

Former President Jacob Zuma, often compared to Henry VIII for his multiple marriages, is a well-known polygamist by culture. Here’s a look at his wives, often referred to as "The Merry Wives of Nkandla."

MaKhumalo: Zuma's first wife, whom he met in 1959 and married in 1973. She lives at his Nkandla home and remains the family matriarch.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma: Married in 1982, Nkosazana has been a cabinet minister since 1999 and has four children with Zuma. She studied medicine at the University of Bristol in the UK. They divorced in June 1998.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Picture: David Ritchie/Independent Media

Kate Mantsho: Zuma’s third wife, from Mozambique, had five children with him. She worked as deputy station manager for Mozambique’s airline, LAM, and helped smuggle ANC cadres out of South Africa. Tragically, she committed suicide in December 2000 at the age of 44, leaving a suicide note requesting that her husband not be allowed to attend her funeral.

Kate Mantsho. File picture

Nompumelelo Ntuli: Married in 2008, Ntuli has three children with Zuma. In 2015, she was embroiled in a controversy over an alleged plot to poison Zuma and was banned from Nkandla. Later investigations found no evidence of poisoning or her involvement.

Thobeka Stacie Madiba: Married in 2010, Thobeka has one child with Zuma. She has worked at Standard Bank, Ithala, Cell C, and SA Homeloans in La Lucia.

Gloria Bongekile Ngema: Married in April 2012, Ngema has one son with Zuma, born in 2005. She established the Bongi Ngema-Zuma Foundation in 2010, focusing on health, particularly diabetes, education, and rural development.

These women, though often in the background, play vital roles in supporting their powerful husbands while carving out their own paths. Their stories highlight the diverse and dynamic lives of the families at the heart of South Africa’s political landscape.

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