Gender Quotas Database

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South Africa

South Africa

Southern Africa

South Africa has a Bicameral parliament with the use of voluntary party quotas and legislated quotas at the sub-national level. 181 of 399 (45%) seats in the National Assembly are held by women.

At a glance

Structure of parliament Bicameral

Are there legislated quotas

For the Single / Lower house? No
For the Upper house? No
For the Sub-national level? Yes

Are there voluntary quotas?

Adopted by political parties? Yes
Is there additional information? Yes

Single / Lower House

National Assembly

Upper House

National Council of Provinces

Quota at the Sub-National Level

Voluntary Political Party Quotas*

* Only political parties represented in parliament are included. When a country has legislated quotas in place, only political parties that have voluntary quotas that exceed the percentage/number of the national quota legislation are presented in this table.

Additional information

The Municipal Structures Act 1998 required that parties “seek to ensure that 50% of the candidates on the party list are women, and that women and men candidates are evenly distributed though (sic) the list.” The weakness of this wording is that it encourages, but does not oblige parties to adopt a zebra system for the [proportional representation] seats, and places no obligation on them to field women candidates in the ward seats. The influence has been especially felt within the ANC.’ (SADC Gender Protocol 2011: 67) In 2011, women constituted 38 per cent of all representatives at the local level (SADC Gender Protocol 2011: 62).

At the national level, the Africa National Congress (ANC) remains the only party which practices voluntary party quotas, having first put in place a 30 per cent quota ahead of the parliamentary elections in 1994. In 2006, the ANC adopted a 50 per cent gender quota in local elections, and this was extended to national elections in 2009. The party statute stipulates ‘the provision of a quota of not less than 50% (fifty per cent) of women in all elected structures’ (ANC Constitution, Article 6 [1]). Currently, the ANC holds 264 seats in the National Assembly, a little less than a two-thirds majority. While it does not have explicit provisions for voluntary quotas, the party Congress of People (COPE), which was established in 2008 by the former ANC members, ensured that 50 per cent of its elected Members of Parliament were women (Gender Links 2009).


Legal Sources:

  • Constitution of South Africa (amended through 2023) - Link
  • Electoral Act 73/1998 - Link
  • Political Parties Law (Electoral Commission Act 51/1996) - Link
  • Local Government Municipal Structures Act - Link

Other Sources:



Additional reading

  • See the latest updates on South Africa on iKNOW Politics
  • Parliamentary Monitoring Group [PMG]. 2021. Representation and participation of women in parliament.
  • Vetten, L. 2016. Political representation makes women's voices heard? Lessons from South Africa
  • Hassim, S. 2003. ‘Representation, Participation and Democratic Effectiveness: Feminist Challenges to Representative Democracy in South Africa’, in Anne Marie Goetz and Shireen Hassim (eds) No Shortcuts to Power: African Women in Politics. London: Zed Books.
  • Ballington, J. 2002. ‘Political Parties, Gender Equality and Elections in South Africa’, in Glenda Fick, Sheila Meintjes and Mary Simons (eds), One Woman One Vote: The Gender Politics of South African Elections. EISA: Johannesburg.
  • Molokomme, A. 2000. ‘Building Inclusiveness in SADC's Democratic Systems: The Case of Women's Representation in Leadership Positions’, in Report of theSADC Elections Forum, June 2001, EISA.
  • Yoon, M.Y. 2001. ‘Democratization and Women's Legislative Representation in Sub-Saharan Africa’ , in Democratization 8, no. 2. p. 169-190.
  • Kethusegile, B. et al. 2000. Beyond Inequalities: Women in Southern Africa. Harare: SARDC.
  • Khan, F. 2000. ‘Politics-South Africa: Number of Women Candidates Increases’, Interpress Service, December 1.
  • Longwe, S. H. 2000. ‘Towards Realistic Strategies for Women's Political Empowerment in Africa’, in Women and Leadership. Caroline Sweetman (ed.). Oxford: Oxfam. pp. 24-30.
  • Lowe-Morna, C. 2000. ‘Strategies for Increasing Women's Participation in Politics’, paper presented to the Fifth Meeting of Commonwealth Ministers Responsible for Women's Affairs.
  • Msimang, S. 2000. ‘Affirmative Action in the New South Africa: The Politics of Representation, Law and Equity’, Women in Action, no. 1. p. 36.
  • Ballington, J. 1999. The Participation of Women in South Africa's First Democratic Election: Lessons From the Past and Recommendations for the Future. Auckland Park: Electoral Institute of South Africa (occasional paper).
  • Ballington, J. 1998. ‘Women's Parliamentary Representation: The Effects of List PR’, Politikon, Vol. 25, No. 2, December.
  • Goetz, A. M. 1998. Women in politics & gender equity in policy: South Africa & Uganda. Review of African Political Economy 25, 76(1998), 241-62.
  • Inter-Parliamentary Union. 1997. Democracy Still in the Making: A World Comparative Study. Geneva: Inter-Parliamentary Union.
  • Mutume, G. 1997. ‘South Africa-Human Rights: Quotas for Women Under Scrutiny’, Interpress Service, September 26.
  • South Africa Parliament website,

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