September 6, 2010


SA man’s mass wedding ‘saved money’

By Pumza Fihlani
BBC News, Durban

South African businessman Milton Mbele broke all the traditional rules of a polygamous wedding when he recently married four women on the same day.

The four brides dressed in flowing white gowns walked down the aisle together, before saying “We do” to the 44-year-old groom.

Mr Mbele says he didn’t marry them purely for the spectacle but also because it made financial sense.

“I don’t know how much four different weddings would have cost me but I know doing it all at once saved money,” he explains.

“For example I only needed one tent, I needed to hire one caterer and one photographer for the entire ceremony.”

If I feel like taking another wife this is something that will be in the open

Milton Mbele
“I began putting money aside for the event towards the end of 2007 and started collecting quotes for things like the tent and catering costs early last year.”

He says he loves all his wives – Thobile Vilakazi, Zanele Langa, Baqinisile Mdlolo and Smangele Cele – equally and also treats them that way.

Mr Mbele himself wears four rings on his finger – he says this is a sign of his commitment to all his wives.

The wives say they were shocked by the news that Mr Mbele wanted to marry them at once but add that they agreed because they love him.

Some two weeks after their much publicised two-day ceremony, Mr Mbele says he is overwhelmed by all the attention his wedding has attracted.

I met Mr Mbele and Smangele, at 23 the youngest Mrs Mbele, at a hotel in Durban – the pair were set to do a radio interview with a national radio station the next day.

‘Our culture’

In their hotel room the pair sat comfortably on the bed while taking questions about their big day.

Mr Mbele, a Zulu businessman and municipal manager, says polygamy is still very much part of Zulu tradition.

Milton Mbele has four wedding rings
“This is a proud part of our culture. It has been practised for generations before us.”

“My grandfather himself had three wives,” says Mr Mbele, quickly adding that he isn’t blindly following in his grandfather’s footsteps.

“I prefer polygamy to having many girlfriends which is what some married men do,” he says.

“If I love more than one woman, I would rather make it known to the other women in my life and make it official.

“If I feel like taking another wife this is something that will be in the open and my wives would know,” he says.

President Jacob Zuma, also a Zulu, has three wives.

But the practice has been met with criticism.

Inside polygamy

Some point out that it does not afford equal rights to men and women.

Women are not allowed to wed more than one husband, while a man can have as many wives as he wishes.

There are seven days in a week and I have four wives. I will take turns visiting them and use the remaining three days to rest

Milton Mbele
In a polygamous marriage only the first wife is legally recognised, which could pose some difficulties in dividing the husband’s estate when he dies.

South Africa has the highest number of HIV-positive people in the world – some five million.

Since having more than one sexual partner increases the chances of contracting the virus, it is understandable that Smangele’s family had reservations about her entering into a polygamous marriage.

“My family was not pleased at first but they came around eventually,” she says.

They are taking the necessary precautions, which include regular HIV tests.

“I had my last test a few months ago when I was pregnant. We are all disciplined about staying healthy,” she says.

The arrangements seem to have been carefully thought out down to the last detail, including how Mr Mbele will alternate between his four wives, who all live in different parts of northern KwaZulu-Natal province.

“There are seven days in a week and I have four wives. I will take turns visiting them and use the remaining three days to rest,” he says.

At this point Smangele, who has been quiet with her head bowed until now, looks up and smiles at her husband.

The second day of the wedding was a traditional Zulu wedding ceremony
When asked how she feels about Mr Mbele’s visitation plan she quickly responds.

“I believe it will work. I am used to living on my own and having him visit me on certain days so this won’t be anything new to us,” she says, reaching for her husband’s hand.

In fact, Mr Mbele has already been in relationships with his new wives for several years.

He has three children with “first wife” Thobile, two with “wife-number-two” Zanele, one child with Baqinisile, referred to as “wife-number-three” and two children with “youngest wife” Smangele.

He also has three children from a previous relationship.

Mr Mbele is the breadwinner in all his homes – none of his wives is employed. They say they are happy to be provided for by their husband.

He owns 100 cows and 250 goats and has a good job, so he is relatively wealthy, at least by traditional standards.

‘Why we love him’

Earlier in the day, I spoke to Baqinisile, who lives in a large home which she says was a gift from her husband.

The yard has three separate houses; the main house is made from orange bricks – it is the biggest and only one of its kind in the small village.

The Mbeles have postponed going on honeymoon to save money
She welcomes me into her home and ushers me to sit down on luxurious cream leather couches.

In an area where employment and the luxuries it affords are difficult to come by, Baqinisile is living a life some young women in the area would envy.

Baqinisile describes her husband, who she met in 2006, as a fair man.

“He respects us and treats us all the same way,”

“When he buys us clothes, he buys us similar things. Also when he gives us money.

“I admire this about him because it shows me that he loves us the same way,” she says, adjusting her ring.

Both Baqinisile and Smangele admit they were against polygamy when they were growing up but have now changed their minds.

“When I saw what a loving man he is and how he much he values all of us, I knew that I would be able to share my life with him and everyone else,” says Smangele.

Although Mr Mbele says he minimised costs by having a mass wedding, he is still paying for it, so there will be no honeymoon for a couple of years.

But the entire Mbele family will not be going away together – he will take each wife separately in order of their hierarchy.


August 17, 2009


• Why I don’t support one man, one wife and how I manage my five wives
By Geoffrey Anyanwu, Awka
Wednesday, November 28, 2007



•Igwe Kelly
Photo: Sun News Publishing

His Royal Majesty, Igwe Dr. Nkeli Nzekwe Kelly, the Okalakwu Igboariam of Okalakwu kingdom, is a traditional ruler with a difference. This is shown in his attire, carriage and the way he rules his people with love and care.

But Igwe Kelly, who has been on the throne for 16 years, has great passion for women. In fact, he told Daily Sun that his target is to marry seven wives. Presently, he has five wives who have given him 13 children.

The traditional ruler has been a lucky man as it is not difficult for him to get his women. According to him, all he needs to do to get a new wife is to just declare his interest and the woman automatically becomes his wife.
In this encounter with Daily Sun, he spoke about his kingdom, his scholarship, the agricultural heritage of his kingdom and other services to his people.

What stands me out
The only thing I know is that nobody is an angel. But I’m trying as much as I can to do what I learnt from abroad where I lived. And that is, to be straightforward in whatever I do and to tell my people the truth. That’s one thing that perhaps makes me special. I don’t know that I am special. But I believe my people love me because I love them, too. I make sure whoever I am dealing with will understand me, where I am coming from and where I am going. You will see my front and back. That’s what makes me special, nothing more than that.

I have all the traditional attire from the various kingdoms, I have them in my kingdom. I have other attires because this kingdom emanated from Benin. Initially, there was only one kingdom in Nigeria. That was the Benin Kingdom. If you watch me sometimes during my Ofala, you see the Ibiwe. Ibiwe means the bead-makers in Benin language. We have bead makers here, they make my wears. Because during the time that King Oba na Edo ruled up to this area, we called him Oba Nidu. I have the history in my kingdom. What my ancestors left behind, I’ve gone through them. The one written in Igbo and in English. I have gone through them and I discovered that there was a time those people extended up to here. There was a king that came into this place and wore the same attire.

So, what happened is, if you want to know my real attire, come on my Ofala day. Other attires, I can change to Emir attire, provided it is a Nigerian attire, but you may not know. Sometimes, I wear attire from the northerners, the Yorubas, the Tivs, the Ibibios, the Anambras, the Imos and so on. So, that’s what makes my dressing different. But if you look into it deeply, you will still see some Igbo cultural wears or traditional wears in those attire.

Life is what you make out of yourself; you cannot depend on your father’s wear because fashion changes all the time. If you are wearing this dress now, if I bought this dress last year for about, let’s say, N50, you may not find that type or style again this year. And if you buy it, they will take you as one who is not current with trends. So, I have brought everything to this level.

Wives and how I choose them
Actually, I have five wives and I am ready to marry more. It depends, because my target is seven. But I don’t know: Life and finance will determine. That is, my pocket will determine how many wives I will be able to accommodate in my kingdom. It is the tradition. You see, one man, one wife, I do not believe in it because there are a lot of women in the society now. Even sometimes, women claim that they own your house with you, the husband.
It is not done; it is only done in England where the man contributes money to the dowry with his wife, contributes money for the dowry, for feeding and every other thing from morning to night. But when you go to a woman’s house, organise a big party, sew uniforms for your wife’s friends, your in-laws, extended families, then tomorrow, will somebody say she owns your house with you? She did not contribute in building the house. How does she own the house? So, that’s why I have my wives with me and they are living happily with me and they are okay.
I choose my wives as a king. When I see somebody I like and I say I will marry you, she will follow me, that is the end of it. Then we do the next things. I will tell my people this is my wife. I don’t go to oracle, I don’t go anywhere. When any girl attracts me or any time I see a woman that attracts me, I will say it: I want to marry you. And from then on, my men will walk in there and I will leave that place and they will dig it out, get the business done for me and bring the lady home.

Managing five wives
The more wives you get, the better for you in your house. If you have only one wife, you will have more than 10 problems. If you have 10 wives, you have only one trouble in the house because instead of fighting you, they will fight themselves. All of them will be fighting to get you, to get your love and attention and you will stay quiet in your house and live long.
But if you marry only one, even if you go out, she will say why did you go and drink? But when they are many, you can go and drink, you can even sleep outside for one month and come back. Provided you know you are not cheating in any way. It depends on the individual, because I don’t like cheating someone. If you are straightforward, then you can marry more. They will not be able to stop you. The more you go in marriage, but watch always your pocket, as I said. You must be financially okay before you go into such marriages, because it involves a lot of money, a lot of spending. What you spend for one wife, times 10 or more, including on extended families. You must make sure you are sound before you go in for the second or third wife.

Our traditional stool
It means I am the servant of my people. I am working for my people and I am happy discharging my duties. I am happy working for them; it is not easy because they say uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. So, it is not easy for me. You must have a lot of challenges. But remember, challenges make you wise. When you have challenges from people, you get wiser, you get stronger, more powerful. But if you have no challenges, you become powerless; you behave like one of your subjects. I like challenges; I like people challenging me from left, right, everywhere. So, if I can defend and bring them down, then I am a good leader. If I cannot defend them and they bring me down, I am not a good leader.

Most memorable time on the throne
I enjoyed my 16 years on the throne from day one to today. I enjoyed every bit, every day of it, but Ofala days are always special times. My community is very good. They are very nice people, they are educated, they are quiet, they are not troublesome and they have understanding. I am happy throughout the 16 years I have been the king of this kingdom.

Changes in the kingdom
Very, very many changes. They have scholarships, they have light, they have everything. There have been a lot of changes since I became the king. Formerly, they were paying school fees. Today, they don’t pay anything, for over 10 years now. Even foreigners who are here do not pay, provided you pay your community dues or any communal contribution. You have to make it otherwise, your children will not be allowed in the schools. You must contribute; you must work with the community to grow the economy. We like people who work like my people. If you come here in the afternoon, you can’t see anybody here. They are all in the bush, rivers, looking for what to eat.
We have achieved a lot. Scholarships, agriculture, we grow food and grow more and more. We have loans from the government and from myself that make them do more work on their farms. If you go to where we farm now, you will see that we have extended the farms. We are even trying to pay for lands, lease lands from other communities in order to cultivate and do our farming business. The land is even not enough for us to farm.

Future vision for the kingdom
My future vision for my kingdom is to make them happy, make them grow economically and make their future bright. Through this scholarship scheme, I know we will get more educated people and from there, they will now spread to all the other parts of the world. What I want is to make them a big community, big town with rich and educated people. That’s my aim and target.

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