JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - South African President Jacob Zuma on Wednesday denied local media reports that he has hinted he may be ready to take a fifth wife to accompany him through old age.
In a statement titled "holiday legends", the presidency said a journalist from The Star, a leading newspaper, had "misunderstood" a Zulu idiom during the 72-year-old Zuma's speech.
The newspaper reported that during a visit to a Durban township in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal on Tuesday, Zuma had said in Zulu "Angakayakhi indlu yokugugela... laba ngisabathathile nje" (I do have wives, but I'm yet to marry my last one).
The crowd, most of them elderly, laughed and cheered, The Star said.
"The President joked that he did not have "indlu yokugugela" (the home in which I will age in), which the journalist reported as a hint about taking another wife," said the presidency.
Zuma, who on Sunday said he was in "perfect condition" after a stay in hospital in June, had earlier made a speech about the need to respect and tend for older people.
Before the denial was issued some South Africans had reacted to the rumour with support.
"Good for him and the wife to be," said radio presenter Sebenzile Nkambule on Twitter. "Why are people upset? It's THEIR culture. You don't like it, don't be polygamous."
But with over 20 children, and four wives currently on the state's budget, Zuma has also been harshly criticised for hitting taxpayers' pockets with his personal life after refurbishments to his private home - including a swimming pool and amphitheatre.
The 246 million rand (S$28 million) refurbishments were paid for with public funds under the guise of "security upgrades".
"He can marry 10 wives... but WE, the people, should not have to foot the bill," commented reader Matt Howard on The Star's website.
"I do not care if he marries a goat," said another, "but I am stuffed if he uses my tax money to pay for the reception!!"