SA women participation in the 2024 election

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Women currently make up the majority of South Africa’s voters’ roll. Of the 27.7 million voters expected to cast their vote on May 29, 15 million are female.

With 55% of registered voters being women, approximately 3 million more women than men are expected to cast vote in the upcoming elections.

The 2019 National and Provincial Elections (NPE) saw a similar situation, with 55% of registered voters being women and only 45% being men.

Women made up 57% of all registered voters, compared to 43% for men, meaning that women turned out to vote at a considerably higher rate than men.

Breakdown of voter registration
  Women Men Total % Women % Men
2004 20 674 926 55% 45%
2009 23,181,99 55% 45%
2014 13 938 303 11 451 847 25 390 150 56% 44 %
2019 14 706 701 12 029 947 26 736 648 55% 45%
2024 15 285 301 12 382 086 27 667 387 55% 45%

Source: IEC

Despite women being such an important demographic, we haven’t seen enough of them ascend to the top positions of political power in the country.

Thirty years into democratic South Africa, the country has yet to witness a democratically elected female president, despite women’s high voter participation.

Among those seeking to be elected to office, the Electoral Commission (IEC) issued certificates to the 14 889 candidates who will contest 887 seats in the forthcoming elections. Seventy political parties and 11 independent candidates were published as the final contestants in these elections.

On gender representation, the list of candidates reflects that:

  • 58.14%, or 8 658 candidates, are male.
  • with female candidates at 41.86%, or 6 234.

In terms of political parties:

  • 15 political parties have a female representation of 50% or above.
  • Seven parties achieved a 40% and a further 14 parties have a 30% female representation on their lists.

In terms of the Independents:

Only two women have made the shortlist, namely:

Anele Mda – A social and gender activist who was one of the country’s youngest Members of Parliament (MP) in 2009. She was a founding member of COPE and a former ANC Youth League member.

Faith Ntakadzeni Phathela – A community activist, religious leader, auditor, and president of “Africa Break The Silence”, which focuses on empowering youth to make better life choices and fighting the spread of HIV.

When it comes to parties currently represented in parliament, not a single major political party in the South African political landscape has selected a woman to run for president in the 2024 elections. The five biggest parties from the last election—ANC, DA, EFF, IFP, and FF+— all have male candidates running for president.

Of the 14 political parties represented in South Africa’s sixth parliament, only GOOD, led by Patricia de Lille, and the National Freedom Party (NFP), led by the late Zanele ka Magwaza-Msibi, had female leaders. Unfortunately, ka Magwaza-Msibi passed away in 2021. Meanwhile de Lille – who was one of the first women to lead a political party in parliament in democratic South Africa, is still vying for a seat in the upcoming elections.

Most newcomers to the national and provincial elections, like Action SA, the MK party, Build One SA, and Rise Mzansi, are led by men.

The South African Rainbow Alliance (SARA) is one of the few notable new parties led by a woman. The party is led by Colleen Makhubele, who is the former Joburg Council Speaker and member of COPE.

Even though South Africa has made great strides in women’s empowerment and gender representation in government and parliament, the idea of a woman president has become more and more elusive.

Women in Politics in South Africa
  2004 2009 2014 2019
Women MPs in the National Assembly (NA) 33% 43% 40% 46%
Women MPs in NCOP 41% 30% 28% 36%
Women MPLs 30% 41% 37% 46%
Women in cabinet 42% 41% 41% 50%
Women deputy ministers 60% 39% 44% 46%
Women premiers 44% 55% 22% 22%
Women voters 55% 55% 56% 55%

Source: Gender Links

Women have numerous obstacles that hinder them from breaking through the glass barrier in politics, such as patriarchy, harassment, and discrimination.

According to a survey conducted by Afrobarometer in 2023, most citizens (81%) say women should have the same chance as men to be elected to political office. However, six in 10 (59%) consider that a woman running for public office will be criticized, called names, or harassed by others in the community.

Looking at the dynamics outlined above, it is extremely improbable that South Africa will have a female president anytime soon.