Motlanthe, who is separated from his long-time partner Mapula, has been intimately involved with Gugu Mtshali, an ANC colleague, for several years. Mtshali, who is from Pietermaritzburg, was divorced from her husband of 17 years in December because of her relationship with Motlanthe. She works at Luthuli House, the ANC’s headquarters, as a personal assistant to Mathews Phosa, the party treasurer, and where the 45-year-old is known by her maiden name Mkhize.
When approached by The Sunday Independent, Mtshali and Motlanthe declined to comment, but ANC staffers say the liaison is an open secret, though few dared to break ranks because of Motlanthe’s stature and secretive nature.
Others say Mtshali harbours high hopes of a more enduring relationship at the president’s side. But he is living at Mahlamba Ndlopfu, the official state residence in Pretoria, while she is in the modest Johannesburg suburb of Norwood.
But unknown to Mtshali, Motlanthe (or "Mkhuluwa" – the elder one – as he is fondly known) is also said to be intimately involved with Kelobogile Makoe, who, at 24, is less than half his age and is believed to be in the final stages of pregnancy with his child.
Although Makoe flatly denies the allegations, her comments raise questions about her involvement with the man who runs this country.
"It’s going to hurt a lot of people," she said on Friday when she was told that details of their alleged relationship would be exposed. "It’s going to cause a lot of havoc, for me especially. The story is not just going to damage Kgalema’s image, it’s also going to damage mine. Because I’m also involved in it," she said in a phone conversation.
"I’m not the public figure. Kgalema is the public figure.
"And it’s not for me to be dragged into this story just because some people feel they want to know who he’s dating and what he’s doing and when he’s doing it. Really, it puts me in a very awkward position."
Late on Friday evening, she refused to say anything more and said she was acting on the instructions of Motlanthe’s advisers.
"I called the presidency and they said, no, I mustn’t give out any comments," she said
She could not explain why the presidency would offer her advice if she had no relationship with it or Motlanthe.
Thabo Masebe, the spokesperson for the presidency, would not comment. He said he had no knowledge of Makoe or about any advice she claimed to have received from the presidency.
During Friday, Makoe arranged five times to meet Sunday Independent staffers to tell her side of the story on condition that no photographs would be taken of her. But each time she cancelled the meeting at the last minute or failed to show up.
The source of the allegations about their relationship is well known to her and her family, who are said to be concerned about the fact that their daughter is young enough to be Motlanthe’s daughter and that he is the president of South Africa.
Her pregnancy was substantiated by people at City Power where Makoe worked until she resigned in November.
They say her pregnancy was visible and that she told them she was resigning because she wanted to stay at home to look after her infant and that the father would take care of them both financially.
Although Motlanthe is still on good terms with Mapula, his former wife, and has been active in rearing their three children, it is understood that that relationship is over.
So which of the three women is South Africa’s First Lady? It remains a mystery.