Bongi Ngema-Zuma has her own schedule when she accompanies her husband President Jacob Zuma on international trips, with a focus on visiting local hospitals, and raising awareness of diabetes, she said in the July issue of Fair Lady magazine.
"It's what makes life interesting," she said in the interview, given shortly after she addressed a global health conference in New York.
"I wouldn't want to just go around shopping. With every opportunity, it's about how you respond. We have a duty to change the mindset about Africa, about South Africa in particular," she said.
People still asked about "monkeys and lions", she said.
"More than that, you have to raise the bar for yourself -- become an ambassador for the country. Presidential terms come and go. You have to learn something new during that time."
She has an array of business qualifications, which include a degree in business administration, and hopes to find time to complete her MBA. The topic she chose to write about for the course was the impact of diabetes on the economy.
Her diabetes awareness drive arose from her mother having the condition and learning how to manage it.
The foundation she established for this has helped her focus on improving her own health, and she has entered long distance walking events and recently learnt how to swim. She makes her bodyguards do only the walking events.
The interview was conducted on condition that no personal questions, questions about Zuma's other three wives, or their recent wedding, were asked.
The author observed that there was confusion over which Zuma wife was being interviewed when she arrived.
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