Mayoral Glass Ceiling Softening: SA Female Mayors, Past & Present, Who Ran Metros

Mayoral Glass Ceiling Softening: SA Female Mayors, Past & Present, Who Ran Metros

The mayoral glass ceiling in South Africa has been cracking. In the past few years, more women have been elected as mayors and some have done well for the people who elected them.

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South African female mayors
South African women politicians have been entrusted by their political organisations to lead massive municipalities in South Africa. Images: Oupa Bopape, @joy_zelda, Josh Edelson & Andreas Rentz
Source: Getty Images

South Africa has great examples of women being trusted with prominent positions leading major metropolitan municipalities, such as eThekwini, Cape Town, Johannesburg, Ekuhruleni, Nelson Mandela Bay and Mangaung.

In 2017, female mayors led three metros, a feat that had never been seen before. In the 2021 elections, three more women were voted into power in the City of Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan and the City of Ekurhuleni.

According to StatsSA, the mayoral glass ceiling seems to be cracking based on data collected over the years. In 2007, 38% of mayors across the country were women, which jumped to 42%, with Limpopo leading with 16 of its 27 municipalities being led by women.

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Briefly News takes a look at past and present mayors who were elected in various metropolitan municipalities.

1. City of Joburg and Ekurhleni get their 1st female mayors

The 2021 local government elections were an interesting time for South African politics. The African National Congress struggled to connect with voters, which meant that smaller opposition parties were able to band together and keep the ANC out of power in many municipalities.

For the first time in history, the City of Johannesburg and the City of Ekurhleni elected their first female mayors, who were both members of the Democratic Alliance.

Dr Mpho Phalatse, who leads the City of Joburg, was able to come out on top of the DA-secured 10-party coalition agreement, which ensured that the ANC had no prospects of governing the metro.

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City of Joburg Mayor Mpho Phalatse
City of Joburg Mayor Dr Mpho Phalatse had a successful medical career before turning to politics. Image: Oupa Bopape
Source: Getty Images

Phalatse has an impressive political and professional career. According to the DA website, the Joburg mayor obtained her medical degree in 2005. She then worked at Tembisa Hospital, where she started her internship.

After working in the North West province for a few years, Phalatse moved back to Johannesburg, where her political career kicked off. She became the Mayoral Committee (MMC) for Health and Social Development in Johannesburg, and a few years later, she was elected mayor.

City of Ekurhuleni mayor Tania Campbell
City of Ekurhuleni mayor Tania Campbell was elected mayor in 2021 following the local government elections. Image: @joy_zelda
Source: Twitter

Tania Campbell became the mayor of the City of Ekurhleni despite the DA only scoring 28% of the votes and the ANC leading with 38%, thanks to coalition parties.

Campbell was not the party's first mayoral elect choice. She was handed the position after Refiloe Nt'sekhe withdrew her candidacy to continue serving as a member of the provincial legislature.

When elected, Campbell stated that she was shocked to have won the majority of votes and did not expect that she would win, according to News24. She promised that she would tackle service delivery issues in the municipality during her acceptance speech.

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2. The City of Cape Town has been led by women, twice

The City of Cape Town has had the privilege of having back-to-back women mayors. The first was Helen Zille, who now serves as the DA's federal chairperson.

Zille was the mayor of Cape Town from 2006 to 2009. In 2008, she was awarded the World Mayor of the Year prize, beating a number of mayors from many countries across the globe, according to Cape Town Magazine.

Former City of Cape Town mayor Helen Zille
Democratic Alliance federal chairperson Helen Zille won the World Mayor of the Year award while she was the City of Cape Town mayor. Image: Rodger Bosch
Source: Getty Images

Zille was granted the award based on her leadership, vision, management skills and social-economical awareness. She was also recognised for protecting the environment and her ability to foster good relations between different cultural, racial and social backgrounds.

Former City of Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille
Patricia de Lille was the mayor of the City of Cape Town before she was ousted from the Democratic Alliance during her second term. Image: Esa Alexander
Source: Getty Images

Patricia de Lille was the Cape Town mayor from 2011 to 2018 under the Democratic Alliance. De Lille successfully served her first term after being elected in 2011, however, her second term was short-lived.

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In 2016, the DA and the people of Cape Town put their trust in de Lille again, but due to infighting and party politics, she resigned as mayor and also left the DA after the party decided to terminate her membership.

De Lille went on to start her own political organisation, GOOD, in December 2018 and is now the Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure, according to the party's website.

3. Mayors with scandals hanging over their heads

Former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede is still making headlines for her alleged involvement in corrupt acts while she was still in office.

Gumede was elected mayor in 2016 under the African National Congress. Gumede, along with 21 other people, is facing over 2 000 charges related to a multi-million fraud and corruption case, according to EWN.

Former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede
Former eThekwini Mayor Zandile Gumede is currently facing multiple criminal charges related to a R350 million tender contract fraud. Image: Josh Edelson
Source: Getty Images

Gumede has been linked to irregularities around a Durban solid waste tender worth over R320 million. She maintains her innocence and plans to make an application to be tried separately.

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Her criminal charges have made it difficult for her to work in the ANC due to the step-aside resolution.

Joburg Mayor Mpho Phalatse has also been rocked by a scandal during her tenure. According to The Citizen, Phalatse and former group forensics and investigation services (GFIS) commissioner Shadrack Sibiya are being accused of being in possession of intelligence-gathering equipment.

The State Security Agency (SSA) has since cleared them, however, Mesuli Mlandu, Joburg City manager, is not letting it go and has turned to SAPS to investigate the pair.

SSA director-general Thembisile Majola stated that they found technical surveillance countermeasures (TSCM) equipment in the City of Joburg's war room, but added that it was not spy equipment. However, Mlandu is still not convinced.

Geordin Hill-Lewis: Youngest Cape Town Mayor plans to end loadshedding and fight crime using technology

Briefly News previously reported that the Democratic Alliance has made the decision to elect Geordin Hill-Lewis as the mayor of the City of Cape Town, making him the youngest person to oversee the city at the age of 34.

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Hill-Lewis began his career at a young age and at the age of 24, he became the youngest Member of Parliament in 2011. Hill-Lewis succeeds Dan Plato, who served as the Cape Town Mayor between 2009 and 2011 and again between 2018 to 2021.

Speaking to Briefly News, Hill-Lewis explains what being the youngest mayor in the history of Cape Town means to him and to the City.

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