Namibia proposes ‘zebra’ system for gender equal politics

A quiet gender revolution in Namibian politics is underway following a commitment to a gender equal parliament and a ‘zebra’ system that aims to create a male-female balance for ministerial roles

Namibia’s ruling party, the South West Africa People’s Organisation (Swapo), has not only committed to filling half of its seats in parliament with women, but has also proposed a ‘zebra’ system whereby if a minister is a woman then the deputy minister must be a man and vice versa. Roles will be switched following each re-election.

Swapo is already moving to enact this commitment. The party initially agreed in 2002 to pursue greater gender equality by calling for 50% of leadership positions in parliament, government and state owned enterprises to be occupied by women. At the most recent Swapo conference, it was agreed that the policy will be operationalised for the November 2014 elections, which Swapo is expected to win.

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Currently 25 of the 72 members of parliament are women, meaning that if the policy is carried out as many as 11 male members of parliament risk losing their seats. This could be a major obstacle to implementing the ‘zebra’ policy. Swapo’s response has been a proposal to expand parliament from 72 to 100 seats. The issue was discussed in the cabinet in June with a bill now being prepared for circulation.

This article was first published by The South African Civil Society Information Service.