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Women in the South African Parliament

From Resistance to Governance

Hannah Britton

Publication Year: 2005

Although the international press closely chronicled the dismantling of South Africa's apartheid policies, it paid little attention to the unique role women from a variety of political parties played in establishing the new government. Utilizing interviews, participant observation, and archival research, Women in the South African Parliament tells an inspiring story of liberation, showing how these women achieved electoral success, learned to work with lifelong enemies, and began to transform Parliament by creating more space for women's voices during a critical time in the life of their democracy._x000B_Arguing from her detailed analysis of the strategies and political tactics used by these South African women, both individually and collectively, Hannah Britton contends that, contrary claims in earlier studies of the developing world, mobilization by women prior to a transition to democracy can lead to gains after the transition--including improvements in constitutional mandates, party politics, and representation. At the same time, Britton demonstrates that not even national leadership can ensure power for all women and that many who were elected to South Africa's first democratic parliament declined to run again, feeling they could have a greater impact working in their own communities. _x000B_

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Title Page

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Copyright Page

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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xvi

My relationship with South Africa began, oddly enough, in a high-school English class. The term apartheid was unknown to me until my senior year in the small, rural Appalachian town of Greeneville, Tennessee. As I sat on the kitchen counter...

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pp. xvii-xx

This project has been anything but a solitary endeavor. First of all, IDASA staff members in Cape Town, Pretoria, and Durban have been essential to my work logistically and intellectually. Indeed, my work would have been impossible without the support...

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xxi-xxii

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1. Women and the Struggle for Liberation

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pp. 1-29

Through its history of identity politics, the legacy of apartheid, and the methods of its liberation struggle, South Africa demonstrates how processes of liberalization, negotiation, and consolidation can be manifested within a potentially explosive...

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2. Party Politics in the Transition to Democracy

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pp. 30-55

Nobanzi, a former activist and current MP, spoke with me about her first time inside the walls of Parliament, which she initially entered as an antiapartheid activist two years before the 1994 elections. During the constitutional negotiations she and...

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3. Women's Integration in Parliament

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pp. 56-84

In the previous chapters I have discussed the roles women played in the antiapartheid struggle and the obstacles they faced—and to some extent surmounted— in achieving not only a voice but actual presence in their own parties and in Parliament.Most South African parties have by now expressed commitments to increasing...

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4. Class Structure, Role Differentiation, and Gender Identities

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pp. 85-108

Gaining formal political representation for women may be seen as the most significant accomplishment of the women’s movement in South Africa to date. Utilizing collective bargaining and cross-party mobilization, women obtained a remarkable presence in national office.Yet the negotiation period and the transition...

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5. Institutional and Legislative Transformation

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pp. 109-127

The words of Ruth Mompati encapsulate the dichotomy facing women MPs. They clearly made tremendous inroads by gaining national political positions, yet many women were still limited by the inequities they faced in their home lives and their political lives. The goal quickly shifted from getting women into office to changing the system...

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6. Implementing Gender: The National Gender Machinery

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pp. 128-143

Changing South Africa’s commitment to gender equality from a constitutional mandate to a social reality will take the combined efforts of both governmental and nongovernmental organizations.Activists and leading politicians recognized that getting women...

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7. The Second Generation: The Future of Women in Parliament

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pp. 144-158

The women who have remained in or entered Parliament with South Africa’s second democratic election, in 1999, are markedly distinct from the women who gained office in 1994. Simply stated, there has been a rapid “professionalization” within this “second generation.” Women who are being actively recruited into parties now...

Methodological Appendix

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pp. 159-170


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pp. 171-178

Works Cited

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pp. 179-190


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pp. 191-198

E-ISBN-13: 9780252090615
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252030130

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2005

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Women -- Political activity -- South Africa.
  • Women legislators -- South Africa.
  • South Africa -- Politics and government -- 1994-.
  • South Africa. Parliament (1994- ).
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