More women on lists, but major gains unlikely

Date: January 1, 1970
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There have been significant increases in the representation of women on party lists for the 2004 elections, especially among opposition parties.
There have been significant increases in the representation of women on party lists for the 2004 elections, especially among opposition parties.

However, the Fifty- Fifty campaign is disappointed that the ANC did not seize the opportunity of the 2004 elections to introduce a "zebra" system of one woman, one man on its lists and that the proportion of women on ANC lists has remained at 35 percent- the same level as in 1999.

According to an analysis carried out by Women’s Net and Gender Links, two partners in the Fifty-Fifty campaign, AZAPO leads the way with an overall average of 37 percent women candidates on its combined lists.

The increases in women’s representation are an illustration of the "snowball" effect of the ANC’s thirty percent quota as well as the extent to which all political parties are taking this issue more seriously.

The analysis shows that to the extent that there is an increase in women’s representation in the 2004 elections from the 1999 level of 30 percent, this is likely to come from opposition parties. But, because of their relative weakness, the overall increase in the representation of women in the new parliament is not likely to be more than a few percentage points.

South Africa has slid in recent years from being among the top ten countries with regard to the representation of women in parliament to thirteenth place. With 47 percent women in parliament Rwanda has overtaken the Nordic countries to hold first place in the global ranking. Rwanda is commemorating ten years since the genocide that decimated millions of its people, especially men, as South Africa celebrates ten years of democracy.

An important area where substantial gains for women’s representation can still be made in South Africa is in the new cabinet. The extent to which senior ANC women have moved up the list speaks to their performance and the confidence they command. There are presently more women than men deputy ministers.

Gender activists will be watching closely to see if there is a substantial increase in the representation of women in the next cabinet, as well as the posts they are assigned to.

The more detailed analysis that has led to the above conclusions follows. For more information contact: Colleen Lowe Morna on 082-651-6995 or Sheila Meintjes on 082-829-9208, or visit

Women’s representation in the 2004 SA party lists

PARTY % Women on lists 1999 % Women on lists 2004
ACDP N/S 31.8 %
ANC 35 35.4 %
Azanian People’s Organisation N/S 37 %
DP/DA 20 % 31.59 %
Independent democrats   30.33 %
IFP 22 % 31.82 %
NP/NNP 12-15 % 25.21 %
PAC N/S 33.64 %
UDF N/S 24.94 %
Freedom Front 16 % 23.39 %

N/S= not specified; Source: Women’s Net

As illustrated in the table above:

  • The party with the highest proportion of women is AZAPO (37 %) followed by the ANC (35.4 %)
  • There has generally been an increase in the representation of women on lists by all parties. This is most marked among opposition parties. The biggest increases are the New National Party (25 %, compared to 15 % in 1999) and the Freedom Front, 23 % compared to 16 % in 1999.
  • Of the ten main parties, seven have achieved thirty percent women on their lists. Only the ANC has a quota. One of the most interesting features in this election is the "snowball" effect of the ANC quota.
  • The ANC itself appears stuck at 35 % (the same percentage in 1999 and in 2004). The ANC has resisted calls to raise the stakes from its traditional 30 percent quota to 50 percent.



  • In the last parliament, ANC women constituted (95/120) or 79 percent of the total number of women in parliament.
  1994     1999    
PARTY Total Women % women Total Women % women
ANC 252 90 35.7 266 95 35.7
DP/DA 7 1 14 38 6 15.7
IFP 43 10 23 33 9 27.2
NP/NNP 82 9 10 28 4 14.2
UDM       14 1 7
ACDP 2 0 0 6 2 33
FF       3 0 0
UCDP       3 1 33
PAC 5 1 20 3 0 0
Other       5 2 40
TOTAL 400 111 27.7 400 120 30

Source: Ringing up the Changes, Gender Links (2003)


  • Assuming the ANC wins a similar proportion of votes in 2004 as in 1999, there is not likely to be a big increase in the number of ANC women in parliament, as the proportion of women on the ANC lists remains at 35 %.
  • The increases in women’s representation are most likely to come from the opposition parties. However, assuming the opposition parties get 30 to 40 percent of the vote, the overall increase in women’s representation is not likely to be substantial.
  • Our prediction is that the overall representation of women in the new parliament will increase from the present level of 30 percent to about 34 percent.

Qualitative shifts

An interesting feature of the lists is the extent to which women have improved their standing on lists. This is especially marked in the case of the ANC (see examples of individual instances in the table below).

Nkosazana Zuma 51 3 3
Geraldine Fraser- Moleketi 61 9 9
Frene Ginwala 54 13 15
Stella Sigcau 26 28 27
Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula 52 29 20
Baleka Kgositsile- Mbethe 34 33 33
Bridgette Mabandla 66 36 25
Lindiwe Sisulu 93 27 22
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka 90 35 18
Thoko Msane-Didiza 108 42 6

Source: Ringing up the Changes and Gender Links (2004)

Spotlight on cabinet

Over the last decade some of the most substantial gains for women in politics have been at the highest decision-making level, as ministers and deputy ministers (see table below). The present cabinet is exemplary in global terms not just for the relatively high proportion of women (30 percent, compared to the SADC average of 16 percent) but also the diversity of portfolios that women hold.

Since the president determines the composition of cabinet, this is area of decision-making in which, with the necessary political will, rapid strides can be made towards gender parity.

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