South Africa’s 7th Parliament: A step towards youth and gender balance

South Africa’s 7th Parliament: A step towards youth and gender balance

South Africa, known as one of the five youngest African nations that gained independence in the late 1990s, is making significant strides in balancing gender and age gaps in politics. The newly inaugurated 7th Parliament of South Africa features a broader spectrum of age groups, reflecting a more inclusive approach to governance.

On Friday, the world witnessed the swearing-in of the youngest-ever South African politician since the country’s democratic era began. Hon. Cleo Wilskut, aged 20, took office as a Member of Parliament in South Africa’s Government of National Unity. A member and activist of the Patriotic Alliance, she has set a new record, surpassing Hon. Itumeleng Ntsube, who was the youngest MP at 21 in the 6th Parliament in 2019.

Hon. Cleo Wilskut will become the highest-paid youngest politician in South Africa, earning at least R1.27 million annually (over R100,000 per month). According to South Africa’s parliamentary statistics, the 7th National Assembly’s composition shows a significant age representation discrepancy, particularly in the 20-29 age demographic.

From 2019 to 2024, those aged 25-35 constituted 30 members of Parliament. The African Union Charter defines the youth age group as 14-35. In the 7th Parliament, MPs aged 20-29 make up at least 3% of the 400 National Members of Parliament, while those aged 30-39 represent 16.8%.

The oldest member of the 7th National Assembly is Hon. Christian Hattingh, who turned 76 on June 2nd. He is the leader of the North West Provincial Legislature. The election of Hon. Cleo Wilskut at 20, just days before Youth Day in South Africa, holds symbolic significance for many young people across Africa.

Several African countries, including Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Uganda, and Morocco, have reserved parliamentary seats for the youth. In Zimbabwe, some of the youngest MPs include Rutendo Adionah Mpofu of ZANU PF and Takudzwa Ngadziore of CCC.

The evolving political landscape in South Africa and other African nations indicates a promising future where young leaders play a pivotal role in shaping the continent’s destiny.

Tapiwa Rubaya

Tapiwa Rubaya is the current affairs, fashion and sports reporter at My Afrika Magazine.

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