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And they say polygamy is a right enshrined in South Africa's constitution. Having more than one husband or wife, though technically when there are more women to one man that is properly called polygyny. In many a widow is inherited by her dead husband's brothers, father or even a son by another wife. In 1998 the University of Wisconsin surveyed more than a thousand societies. Some 453 had occasional polygyny and in 588 more it was quite common. Some anthropologists believe that polygamy has been the norm through human history.
When a woman has more than one husband that is polyandry. In 2003, New Scientist magazine suggested that, until 10,000 years ago, most children had been sired by comparatively few men.
But Zuma's respect for tradition is endearing to many rural South Africans.
They say it is more honest than hiding his mistresses and illegitimate children like Western politicians. In others a man has many wives – up to 11 in the Arsi region of Ethiopia.
In Senegal, for example, nearly 47 per cent of marriages are said to feature multiple women. It is most common in places where pre-colonial economic activity centred around subsistence farming which requires lots of manpower, Africa being a prime example.
This week, wearing leopard skins and carrying a Zulu shield, South Africa's President, Jacob Zuma, 67, married his fifth wife in a traditional ceremony at his remote homestead in Kwa Zulu-Natal.His first wife, whom he married in 1973, was there to see him wed a woman 30 years his junior.Humans, like their primate forefathers, it said, were at least "mildly polygynous".Polygamy is very common in the animist and Muslim communities of West Africa.
Variations in DNA, it said, showed that the distribution of X chromosomes suggested that a few men seem to have had greater input into the gene pool than the rest.By contrast most women seemed to get to pass on their genes.