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Sex scandal mars runup to World Cup for South Africa President Jacob Zuma

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You’re the leader of South Africa, taking one of your three first ladies on a trip to India to try to boost investment ties and south-to-south cooperation, and to remind one of the world’s emerging powers that your country is an emerging power, too.

You hardly need to point out that in just a few days, you’ll be holding the World Cup soccer tournament, the ultimate coming-out party for emerging nations. And then one of your aides hands you a printout of a South African newspaper. It’s a story alleging that your first lady (the one sitting next to you) may have been having an affair with her bodyguard and become pregnant with his child just before the bodyguard committed suicide.

You look at your wife. She looks at her plate of kebabs.

It’s an untimely scandal, the kind that would force almost anyone but Bill Clinton to resign. But for President Jacob Zuma, a man of the people who came to power despite a corruption scandal, an acquittal in a rape case, and despite admitting that he thought that a shower after sex would protect him from contracting HIV from an HIV-positive sex partner, who was not his spouse, scandal has become the new numbing norm.

His party has a lock on power – winning 65 percent of the vote in the last elections – so nobody expects Mr. Zuma or his party to be forced out of office. But it does potentially sap a man who already has enough big issues – such as race relations, a high crime rate, and endemic poverty – to sort out.

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