By Nyarai Kampilipili
Almost half of the representatives elected to the new National Assembly in South Africa are women, with at least 45 percent of the seats.
This is another step towards equal representation of women and men in political and other decision-making positions as the previous National Assembly had 42 percent women.
The Revised Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development aims for 50:50 representation by women and men.
The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) of South Africa handed over the list of the 400 designated members of the National Assembly and 430 members of Provincial Legislatures to the country’s Chief Justice, Mogoeng Mogoeng on 15 May ahead of the inauguration ceremony was done on 21 May, when the Sixth Parliament opened.
The South African Parliament is made up of an elected National Assembly of 400 members and the National Council of Provinces which consists of 90 provincial delegates, with 10 delegates for each of the nine provinces.
A provincial delegation consists of six permanent delegates appointed by the provincial legislatures and four special delegates.
South Africa uses a system of Proportional Representation in which the electorate votes for a political party, not individuals.
The political party gets a share of seats in the National Assembly in direct proportion to the number of votes won in the election.
Each registered political party submits a list of candidates to the IEC in advance of the election, and the IEC determines the number of seats for each party based on the election results. The parties rank their candidates with the most preferred making the top list.
The three leading parties -- the African National Congress (ANC), the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) -- all had men as their presidential candidates.
Under the South African Constitution, the President is elected by the National Assembly from among its members, usually the leader of the majority party, who is placed first in the list of candidates submitted by the political parties.
The ANC, DA and EFF each had only one woman in their top five list ranked at number four, three and four respectively.
Most of the political parties that took part in the elections adopted different approaches towards gender issues.
The ANC, for example, has a clause in the party Constitution that advocates for 50:50 representation by ensuring that every second name in the list must be a woman.
However, this approach was not adhered to, particularly for the top 25 names as only nine were women.
The EFF also showed a will to advance gender equality as they adopted a zebra listing of women and men candidates.
Other parties such as the DA did not apply this system, arguing that it is not an effective way of getting women into politics. The DA argued that decision-making positions should be based on merit and not quota systems.
According to the final results announced by IEC, the ANC won 58 percent of the popular vote, which delivers 230 seats in Parliament, while the DA was a distant second with 21 percent of the votes, thus 84 seats.
The EFF won 11 percent of the national vote, which is 44 seats.
Representation of other political parties in parliament consists of 10 seats for the Inkatha Freedom Party with the Freedom Front Plus (10), African Christian Democratic Party (4), and the United Democratic Movement (3), while GOOD and the African Content Movement will have two seats each.
Other parties with two parliamentary seats are the National Freedom Party, African Independent Congress, and the Congress of the People, while the Al Jama-ah and the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania will have one seat each.
More than 26.7 million South Africans registered to vote in the 8 May elections and voter turnout was about 65.9 percent, according to the IEC.
The 8 May elections were the sixth since the majority of South Africans were allowed to vote, with the end of apartheid system in 1994. - sardc.net.