Photo: GCIS KwaZulu Natal

Sandile Motha

The local government sector is failing to attract younger woman to avail themselves as ward councillors.

This now means with public representatives getting on in age next year’s local government election will likely be contested by older women.

SA is set to hold Local Government Elections next year.

So desperate is the situation that the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs is now devising mechanisms to encourage older councillors who want to cling on to power at all costs to prepare to exit the system.

These include encouraging councillors who are already in the system to study further in preparation for a life after politics.

Speaking on the sidelines of a Women in Leadership Dialogue held in Durban before the COVID-19 lockdown, Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs [COGTA] MEC Sipho Hlomuka said it was difficult to lure young women into the sector.

He said this was because political parties were reluctant to deploy fresh blood into this critical sphere of government.

This includes resistance by older councillors to make space for younger candidates.

“One of the major hindrances preventing young women into the system is the fact that elections are contested by political parties. The onus is on them to put young women as councillor candidates. For older councillors, we are putting in place exiting strategies to eliminate hostility that exists when it’s time for councillors to vacate office,” said Hlomuka.

The move, Hlomuka believes, will be a game changer invigorating despondent voters to go back to the polls. It is also part of a strategy to revitalise young adults to involve themselves in the electoral processes.

Former uThukela district mayor, Dudu Mazibuko said attracting young women into politics was crucial for South Africa’s development, saying the population of the country was getting younger.

“Where women govern, there is a likelihood of better service delivery. If we want to attract young people to participate in elections, we must put their peers as candidates and public representatives,” she said.

Mazibuko while uThukela mayor introduced a virgin bursary scheme which targeted Zulu maidens who were undergoing the annual reed dance.

As a criteria, the beneficiaries had to produce a certificate proving that they were virgins.

She is now the CEO of uThukela District Development Agency tasked with stimulating economic growth for the region.

Xolani Dube, KZN based political analyst and senior researcher at Xubera Research Institute said there was no political will from the different political parties to empower young women who want to enter politics.

“These older guys are deliberately hogging the space for fresh blood because they see them as competition. Remember that being a ward councillor for many of them is a matter of life and death. If this fundamental political shift was introduced, it might address the problem of low voter turnout. Generally women are under-represented in local government,” said Dube.

The Women in Leadership Dialogue brought together more than 300 female councillors across the province.

It was aimed at bringing to the fore the challenges they face in their work as councillors and prepare them for a life beyond politics.

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