In a wide-ranging newspaper interview, South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma says he has no intention of overturning the country’s equal marriage laws, although he reacted cautiously when asked on how he would respond to learning that one of his children were gay.

The president replied to the question by saying:

“I’d react in a particular way, but she or he would have taken a decision. I would respect that, for that’s what the constitution says. There are small things that would have made me to have a feeling, otherwise I would not be a parent.

“If for example I had a child, and I’m sure I would want to have a grandchild one day, no matter how much I accept the reality but inside I would be saying, ‘I wish I would have had a grandchild, but nevertheless the person has taken the decision, on the constitution I must accept.'”

Mr Zuma previously stated his opposition to equal marriage rights for gay couples, describing it “as a disgrace to the nation and to God” in 2006.

South Africa became the first – and so far only – African nation to legalise the measure in the same year.

Speaking to the Guardian, Mr Zuma said: “That does not necessarily require my view; it requires the views of South Africans.

“We have a constitution that is very clear that we all respect, which I respect. It has a view on that one, that gay marriage is a constitutionally accepted thing in South Africa. So no matter what my views would be.”

In October, Mr Zuma dropped a lawsuit against cartoonist Jonathan “Zapiro” Shapiro after a sketch depicted the president as getting ready to rape a female figure representing justice.

Mr Zuma’s lawyers had been demanding damages of 5m rand ($578,000; £369,000) for the cartoon and claimed that his dignity had been insulted.

Mr Shapiro frequently mocks Mr Zuma in his illustrations.

He usually depicts the president with a shower over his head – a reference to a previous sexual assault case – during which Mr Zuma claimed he had taken a shower to protect himself from HIV transmission.

As a traditional Zulu polygamist, Mr Zuma has four wives and around 20 children.