South Africa: The SALGA Women’s Commission (SWC) has taken stock of recent political developments in Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality and was dismayed to note the significant underrepresentation of women in its new multi-party Mayoral Committee.
The metro’s new multi-party coalition executive was unveiled on Tuesday, 27 September 2022, and has only 1 woman, Cllr Annette Lovemore, who was appointed to lead the Corporate Services portfolio.
The metro’s remaining 10 portfolios are all headed by men, a worrying development that maintains the existing situation regarding the representation of women in local governance.
“In the scramble for positions and power following the removal of the metro’s former Mayor, the city’s new coalition government featured women as an afterthought in the creation of the city’s executive team, and this is clear when one looks at the make-up of its leadership collective,” says SWC national chairperson Cllr Ntandokazi Capa.
“Local government is the closest level of government to the people, and on that account, local councils across the length and breadth of our beloved country must reflect the communities they represent.”
Ntandokazi Capa said that these challenges are not unique to the Nelson Mandela Bay metro as they cut across all municipalities and at all levels of the municipal workforce.
Statistics SA’s 2020 non-financial census on all 257 municipalities around the country reports that there are 23 230 people occupying posts at the management level (including mayoral and councillor positions) in all municipalities, and of these posts, 14 209 are filled by men, while women occupied only 9 021.
Following the 1 November 2021 municipal elections, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) indicated that of the 9473 councillors elected, 5975 (63%) were male, and only 3498 (37%) were female. This is despite women not only making up a majority of the South African population, but also more women (55%) than men (45%) were registered to vote in 2021.
This confirms that women continue to lag substantially behind men when it comes to leadership and employment in the sector, and what has happened in Nelson Mandela Bay is merely the latest chapter of a deepening and widening crisis on gender equality in local governance.
Given how deeply rooted prejudice and discrimination is in society, political parties are well positioned to field more women as councillors to achieve gender parity in councils and municipalities, as employers must use gender criteria in their employment policies to achieve diversity and inclusivity in the workplace.
As the national voice of women in local government, the SWC will continue to support women’s empowerment, gender equality and equity programmes in local government with a focus on women’s representation and participation and its commitment to a 50/50 principle for women in political representation and senior management in all levels of government, remains unwavering.