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South Africa
Women in decision-making positions

Government organization

South Africa is a unitary constitutional republic with three spheres of government: central, intermediate (provincial), and local.

One tier of central government, one tier of intermediate government composed of provinces and one or two tiers of local government: metropolitan municipalities, or district municipalities and local municipalities.
Central government
  • Head of State: The President elected by the National Assembly from amongst its members.
  • Head of Government: The President is the Head of State and the Head of Government.
  • Legislative body: Parliament is a bicameral legislature, with an upper house (the National Council of Provinces) and a lower house (the National Assembly). Members of Parliament are directly elected by voters.
  • Executive body: The Cabinet consists of the President, the executive deputy presidents, and ministers appointed by the President.
Provincial government
  • Legislative body: The provincial legislature is a unicameral legislative body whose members are directly elected by voters of the province.
  • Executive body: The provincial executive council is composed of the provincial premier and members appointed by the provincial premier from amongst members of the provincial legislature. The provincial premier is elected by the provincial legislature from amongst its members.
Local government
  • Organization: Local government is organized into one or two tiers of municipalities. There are three categories of municipalities: Category A (metropolitan municipalities), Category B (local municipalities), and Category C (district municipalities).
  • There is one tier of local government in urban areas, consisting of eight metropolitan municipalities. Metropolitan municipalities are the largest urban agglomerations in South Africa which are endowed with the autonomies of both district and local municipalities.
  • There are two tiers of local government in rural areas: an upper tier of 44 district municipalities, and a lower tier of 226 local municipalities.
  • Competencies: Local government is responsible for making by-laws, levying local taxes, and managing the local budget.
  • Ministerial oversight: The Ministry of Provincial and Local Government is responsible for central government oversight of local government.

Overview of local government

Local government composition

Deliberative body: The metropolitan council is composed of a maximum of 270 elected members. The local and district council is composed of 10-90 members. Local councils are directly elected. District councils are composed of 60% members appointed by and from local councils and 40% directly elected members. A council chairperson is elected by and from the council to preside over it; the council chairperson is not vested with executive powers.

Executive body: The executive body of local government takes two different forms, based on the respective provincial legislation: the collective executive system or the mayoral executive system.

  • Collective executive system: an executive committee consisting of 3-10 members, or 20% of the total council membership (whichever number is less), elected by and from the council, holds executive power. One of the members shall be elected as mayor.
  • Mayoral executive system: a mayor and a deputy mayor hold executive power. They may be assisted by a mayoral committee in municipalities with at least nine members in the municipal council. The mayor is elected by and from the council. The mayoral committee is composed of a maximum of 10 members, or 20% of the total council membership (whichever number is less), appointed by the mayor from amongst council members.
Local government elections
Electoral system

Electoral system for councils: mixed (mixed member proportional) or proportional representation (closed list) in councils with less than seven members

  • For metropolitan and local municipal council elections, each voter casts two votes: one vote for a ward member and one vote for a party list. Half of the municipal council seats are elected using a majority electoral system, and the other half of municipal council seats are elected using a closed party-list proportional electoral system.
  • For district council elections, elected members are elected using a closed party-list proportional electoral system. Members appointed from local councils are elected by and from them using a majority system if there is only one seat and a closed party-list proportional electoral system if there is more than one candidate to be elected.
  • Deliberative bodies with less than ten members use a closed-list proportional electoral system to elect council members.

Electoral system for mayors/chairpersons: no direct elections

  • Mayors and chairpersons are elected by and from councils by a majority electoral system. The candidate receiving the greatest number of votes is elected.

Source: Municipal Systems Act, 2000 (amended through 2022), articles 22, 23, Schedule 1, articles 6, 7, 8, 9, 13, Schedule 2, articles 2, 3, 7, 16, 20, 21, Schedule 3, articles 6


Gender quotas: Legislated candidate quotas, ranking/ placement

  • In regard to councilors elected using the proportional electoral system, every party must seek to ensure that 50% of the candidates on each list are women, and that the candidates of each sex are evenly distributed throughout the list.

Additional quotas: No

Source: Municipal Systems Act, 2000 (amended through 2022), Schedule 1 article 11(3), Schedule 2 article 5(3), Schedule 3 article 17(5)

Term of elections
  • Term length: 5 years
  • Last local elections: 2021
  • Next local elections: 2026
Electoral management body

​​​​​​Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa


1. UN Women: Data on share of women in local government as of 1 January 2023.

2. UN Women: Information on Head of State and Government as of 3 October 2023.

3. Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU): Data on share of women in the single/lower chamber of parliament as of 1 January 2023.

4. IPU and UN Women: Data on share of women in ministerial positions as of 1 January 2023.

5. Information on local government organization as of 1 January 2023.