Daily Archives: Saturday, 16 January, 2010

Parade of Pious Polygamists

Polygamy isn’t just limited to religions that start with M (Muslims, Mormons). Here are a couple polygamists from other, bigger faiths who have been in the news lately:

Jacob Zuma, president of South Africa, a proud Christian polygamist who runs a whole, big country! No low profile there. It looks like he’s currently married to just three women, with one ex-wife and one late wife, who committed suicide in 2000. In 2005 the man who would later become president was charged with rape, but he was found not guilty in 2006. What a colorful character.

And this brings up the question, what do you call a second and third First Lady?

One spouse, Kate Mantsho Zuma, committed suicide in 2000, leaving a note that life with her husband was “hell.”

And according to this news article, there may be a fourth and fifth First Lady before long:

Zuma reportedly has 19 children. He is also engaged to a Durban woman, Gloria Bongi Ngema, who works for IBM — and South African media have reported unconfirmed rumors of the president’s interest in a Swazi princess.

Jacob Zuma isn’t just a casual Christian, he’s a Bible-thumper. Here’s an article addressing Zuma’s religiosity.

Zuma might not believe he is God, but he is certainly capable of drawing a parallel between his own personal narrative and that of the New Testament. In an interview in March 2006 Zuma said he was “like Christ”, that the media and his detractors wanted to nail him to the cross, like Jesus; and that certain newspapers had sought to “crucify him”.

And his utterances about God, Jesus and the ANC certainly indicate that he believes he and the ANC are not answerable to the electorate or a given constituency. Indeed, there is a strong case to be made that, for Zuma, the law comes a distant third to both the ANC and his religious beliefs.

For Zuma, the ANC is sanctioned (“blessed”) by God, a notion which carries with it a series of profound implications for those who stand in opposition to the ANC, because “to oppose governments that rule by divine right is to be a traitor; to attempt to dislodge them, even through the ballot box, is a declaration of war.

During the March 2004 election campaign [Zuma] told a gathering of ANC supporters that those who vote for the ruling party will be “blessed on earth and in heaven”.

October 2006, Zuma described his philosophical outlook as follows: “I start from basic Christian principles. Christianity is part of what I am; in a way it was the foundation for all my political beliefs.”

By way of illustration, as the ANC’s internal divisions were starting to turn ugly, Zuma pleaded with around 5 000 worshippers at the Ethiopian Holy Baptist Church in Zion over Easter last year to join the ANC en masse, and to pray for it, in order to fix the organisation. Later he suggested that religious people should challenge government if they felt legislation conflicted with the Bible, that “Church leaders should be able to tell government leaders if they are straying and their laws clash with the teachings of the Lord”.

This most recent such declaration is nothing new – at least twice before Zuma has said something similar. In the run-up to the 2004 election, Zuma told a crowd that “the ANC will rule South Africa until Jesus comes back”[14] and, in 2007, he declared that “we believe it (the ANC) will be in power forever until the son of man comes back”.

And then there’s Goel Ratzon, a Jewish polygamist, just arrested in Tel Aviv on suspicion of rape, slavery, and incest.

From Times Online UK:

Residents of Tel Aviv’s quiet Hatikva neighbourhood were shocked yesterday to discover a self-styled Jewish sage living in their midst with a harem of 30 women kept as “slaves” in squalid apartments.

They were shocked, shocked! Somehow they all missed the documentary program on tv about him and his harem.

From NY Daily News:

Ratzon made no secret of his unusual living arrangements, and was featured in a documentary broadcast last year, where he claimed to have fathered 89 children by more than 30 women.

In the documentary, the women were seen to be wearing tattoos of Ratzon’s name and face. When asked why young, attractive women would be part of his group, he replied, “I am perfect. I have all the characteristics that a woman wants.”

I guess when the documentary aired, and before it, and up until now, people figured live and let live with their wacky polygamist neighbor who ruled his multiple consorts with an iron fist and kept them out of the sight of, well, anyone who might explain their rights to them.

“The evidence shows the suspect controlled his women with a firm hand, including their possessions and their money,” police said. Mr Ratzon even wrote a list of commandments to ensure that the women were kept in “conditions similar to slavery”, police said.

In addition to turning over all their wages, the women were forbidden from making telephone calls or talking to men other than Mr Ratzon. If they broke the rules they would pay a fine or receive physical punishment.

Mickey Rosenfeld, the Israeli police spokesman, said that Mr Ratzon convinced his victims that he had godlike status. “The women didn’t really understand what their situation was, they didn’t understand what freedom was,” Mr Rosenfeld said.

Here are a few more interesting tidbits from a Jerusalem Post article:

In the film, the women can be seen showing the camera large tattoos bearing Ratzon’s face and name on their arms and neck. All of the children conceived by the women and Ratzon are named after him, like Tehilat Ratzon (Ratzon’s Glory), one of his daughters, and Goel Goeli, one of this sons.

The women usually dressed in an extremely conservative manner to ensure no part of their body was exposed.

Um, okay, I’m having more and more trouble believing that neighbors were shocked, shocked! by the news of this group living in their neighborhood:

Despite the quiet, noise levels would rise dramatically when the women, always quick to take offense at criticism of their “master,” became confrontational with neighbors who had a bad word to say about Ratzon.

“The police have been called here many times to calm things down,” a neighbor said. “At one point someone threw fire crackers at their home,” she added.

The silence was also shattered periodically by the parents of the women, who came to the house to plead for their daughters to come back. “It would happen routinely,” the neighbor said. “The parents filed many complaints with police and social services,” she added.

“Whenever I saw the kids, they were quiet,” the neighbor said. “Sometimes I heard them crying. They always had long clothes on.”


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