Disappointment at election gender figures

Johannesburg - The drop in the representation of women in local government confirms the need for laws on increasing the number of women in decision-making positions, the Ministry for Women, Children and People with Disabilities said on Tuesday.

"The ministry is disappointed at the decline in the percentage of women as councillors in the country from 40% in 2006 to 38% after the 2011 local government elections," the department read.

According to Gender Links research and advocacy organisation, which analysed representation at the May local government elections, in 1995 representation of women in local government was at 19% overall; 29% in 2000; 40% in 2006 and then dropped two percentage points to 38% for May 2011.

Women's Minister Lulu Xingwana said: “We are developing the necessary legislation which should compel all political parties to adhere to the principle of gender equality. The Gender Equality Bill will be submitted to Cabinet by March 2012 and it will also extend to the issue of employment and appointment of women to senior positions in both the public and private sector.”

Gender Links said a legislated quota was urgently required if South Africa was to meet its 2015 commitment in terms of the Southern African Development Community's protocol on gender and development which calls for gender parity by that year.

Leaving it up to the political parties was "fraught with challenges".

Their researchers found that only the ANC tried to mainstream gender into its manifesto and it also tried to field equal numbers of women candidates. It was also their 50/50 representation policy introduced in 2006 which helped increased overall representivity figures.

In a study of party manifestos Gender Links said the opposition Democratic Alliance, led by Patricia de Lille and Helen Zille, made no mention of women in their entire manifesto.

They chose to focus on improving service delivery and reducing crime, but did not mention how improved service delivery would affect the lives of women.

The Freedom Front Plus also made no mention of women at all in its manifesto, with their focus on service delivery and promoting Christian values and morals.

The Inkatha Freedom Party, which suffered a blow due to a shift in support to ousted chairperson Zanele Magwaza-Msibi of the National Freedom Party, made no mention of women at all in its manifesto and focused on rooting out corruption and making municipalities accountable for money spent.

The United Christian Democratic Party had no quotas, but said corruption could hinder efforts at gender equity.

The United Democratic Movement had no quotas but an integrated development management plan which included women. A UDM-led council would also promote women and youth involvement in environmental projects that created jobs.

The African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), also without quotas, only mentioned women in the context of improving their safety and well being, preventing teen pregnancies and helping young mothers.

Gender Links referred to these parties as "gender blind".

"The analysis shows that the ANC is the only party that has made an effort to mainstream gender in its manifesto."

In terms of the percentage of women on party proportional representation lists the ANC had the highest proportion of women (47%) followed by the Congress of the People (Cope)(38%), the UDM 37%, the ACDP 36%, the DA 33% and the IFP at 32%.

Poster girls

Only the ANC came close to meeting the 50/50 quota by having the largest proportion of women on their party lists. They also had more women than men higher up on the lists.

But Cope, the ACDP and the UDM came close to achieving parity without quotas.

The actual election outcome was the ANC exceeded its 50/50 quota with regard to proportional representation seats. The 2011 elections had 121 parties participating - up from 79 in 2000 and 97 in 2006.

According to the Independent Electoral Commission, women comprised 19 731 of the 53 000 candidates - 37% of the total, up just 2% compared to 2006.

Gender parity was also not achieved in the individual provinces.

"Gauteng (40%), Northwest (40%), and the Northern Cape (40%) had the highest proportion of women candidates.

The DA-dominated Western Cape had the lowest proportion of female candidates (33%) despite being led by a female premier, Helen Zille, and her partner Patricia de Lille, formerly leader of the Independent Democrats (ID)."

The report also found that of the eight metros, only two had female mayors, Cape Town and Buffalo City, while Tshwane and Ekurhuleni lost women mayors.

Post-election mudslinging had the ANC calling the DA's female leadership "poster girls" but the DA retorted by pointing out that the ANC was yet to have a female leader.

"Although South Africa still scores third in the SADC region (after Lesotho, 58% and Namibia, 41%) with regard to women’s representation in local government, the 2011 local elections proved to be a major disappointment," Gender Links concluded.

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