More women make up new National Assembly

Wednesday, May 6, 2009
By: 
Bathandwa Mbola

Parliament - Women's representation in the National Assembly has increased to 45 percent, putting South Africa third in the global women in Parliament rankings, behind Rwanda and Sweden.

"This put the country firmly on course to achieve the Southern African Development Community (SADC) target of 50 percent women in political decision-making by 2015," Gender Links spokesperson Kubi Rama told BuaNews.

This comes as the swearing in of new Members of Parliament wrapped up in the first sitting of the National Assembly earlier today.

Ms Rama said the increase in women's representation was the largest seen in South Africa since the first democratic election in 1994.

"We attribute the increase in numbers to the African National Congress' (ANC) and the Congress of the People's (COPE) 50/50 election lists as well as improvements in women's standing in other opposition parties," she explained.

Based on the party's list of candidates released before the elections, 54 percent of the MP's representing COPE are women while the ANC also put forward a 50 percent women representation.

"This achievement has come about as a result of voluntary party quotas as opposed to the legislated quotas," said Ms Rama.

Another milestone in the empowerment of women in South Africa, is the fact that for the first time in the history of the country, the majority of the Premiers governing the provinces will be women.

The ANC last week announced Nomvula Mokonyane as the Premier of Gauteng, Noxolo Kiviet as the Premier of the Eastern Cape, Hazel Jenkins as Premier of the Northern Cape and Maureen Modiselle as Premier of the North West.

The Western Cape, which was hotly contested between the Democratic Alliance and the ANC, will be led by Helen Zille.

Ms Rama noted that that while parties such as the Independent Democrats had a high proportion of women, most of these women were located at the bottom of the lists, which would have made it hard for them to make it to Parliament.

"It is unfortunate that few parties made the link between women being the majority of voters and the need to craft messages that specifically address their concerns," said Ms Rama.

The National Assembly is expected to convene again soon to elect the President of South Africa.