Four in every 10 South African municipalities have female mayors.
This is according to Statistics South Africa’s (Stats SA's) latest non-financial census of municipalities report.
“A scan through the data reveals that 107 of the 257 municipalities had a female mayor in 2017‚” StatsSA said.
The first time Stats SA had similar data available was in 2007. At the time‚ 38% of municipalities had female mayors. This had increased to 42% by 2017.
At first‚ this looks like a softening of the glass ceiling for women‚ but Stats SA highlights a caveat.
“South Africa changes its municipal structure every five years during local government elections‚ complicating matters when data are compared over time. Boundary changes in August 2016 (reflected in the 2017 data) reduced the number of municipalities from 278 to 257.”
Due to restructuring‚ male mayors fell from 169 to 150. The number of female mayors‚ however‚ did not change‚ remaining at 107 before and after the elections.
“So even though there wasn’t an increase in the number of women appointed‚ the amalgamation of municipalities pushed the percentage of female mayors up from 38% in 2016 to 42% in 2017.”
In 2017‚ the mayors of three metropolitan municipalities - Cape Town‚ Bloemfontein and Durban - were women. Patricia de Lille‚ Olly Mlamleli and Zandile Gumede‚ respectively‚ collectively presided over about 15% of the South African population‚ or 8.7-million‚ across the three metros.
In terms of provinces with the highest female mayoral representation in 2017‚ it was Limpopo that led the way. There‚ 16 of its 27 municipalities (59%) had women at the helm. The Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal‚ despite having women mayors in their metros‚ lagged behind. In the Western Cape‚ eight of the 30 municipalities (27%) are led by women‚ compared to 15 of the 54 municipalities (28%) in KZN.