South African party leader qualifications: ANC vs DA vs EFF

[The article has been updated to clarify the qualifications in DA leadership]

The DA’s chief whip, John Steenhuisen, has been thrust into the limelight following weekend reports that he has no qualification higher than matric.

The party’s political opponents took to social media platforms to deride and mock the DA whip as the qualifications among the country’s political leaders has been a point of contestation for some time, particularly through the Jacob Zuma years.

The national government has on several occasions faced strong criticism for appointing ministers and deputy ministers where they have no formal education relating to the portfolios they oversee – while misrepresentation of qualifications has led to some politicians losing their jobs.

The DA, in particular, has been vociferous in matters relating to qualifications, having, in the past, called for those in government to be replaced because they only have a matric-level education.

The party also boldly displays the many qualifications of its leaders in the various profiles on its website.

Responding to the criticism geared towards Steenhuisen, many in DA leadership have said that the chief whip’s experience and demeanour make up for his lack of tertiary qualification.

Critics have called this defence hypocritical.

Steenhuisen argued that the Constitution makes provision for ordinary South Africans to be elected to Parliament, and be part of the lawmakers and represent the people.

He rejected the notion that he was uneducated, and said that over the past 20 years, he’s had in-service training and done vocational courses in municipal finance, ethics, and legislative process including African economics.

Ha also said that requiring degrees to be part of Parliament would lead to a situation where the political sphere would only be open to a small elite – a very small percentage of South Africans who can afford to get university qualifications – locking out the vast majority from having a say in decisions that affect them.

SA leaders’ qualifications – including chief whips

Looking at South Africa’s three major parties, the majority of leaders have formal tertiary qualifications.

Among the chief whips, however, only the EFF’s Floyd Shivambu (who is also the party’s deputy president) has a degree. ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu was a student activist in his youth, and was expelled from the University of Fort Hare.

A chief whip’s role has little to do with the running of government aside from being a political role in parliament to lead a party’s caucus. It typically involves ensuring MPs are present and vote in line with party mandates.

They also take the lead in parliamentary debates. Chief whip salaries are over R1.2 million per annum.

These are the party leaders’ qualifications, which are in the public domain. Only the party leaders that form part of the national executive are listed.


African National Congress

The ANC’s leadership has well documented qualifications among its ranks. No data could be found for deputy SG Jesse Duarte.

Member Position Qualification
Cyril Ramaphosa President BProc
David Mabuza Deputy President BA Education
Gwede Mantashe National Chairperson BCom Honours, Masters, MBA
Ace Magashule Secretary General BA Arts
Jessie Duarte Deputy Secretary General No Data
Paul Mashatile Treasurer General Post Graduate Diploma in Economic Principles
Jackson Mthembu Chief Whip Matric, (expelled from University of Fort Hare)

Democratic Alliance

The DA displays its leaders’ qualifications on their profiles.

Deputy federal chair Natasha Mazzone has clarified that she was studying towards a law degree at the University of Pretoria, but never completed the degree. She completed 5 years of articles while studying part time, but started her career in politics before completing the degree.

Member Position Qualification
Mmusi Maimane Federal Leader Master’s Degree in Theology, Master’s Degree in Public Administration
Athol Trollip Federal Chairperson Degree in Agricultural Management
Refilo Nt’sekhe Deputy Federal Chairperson Degree in Politics and Philosophy, Post-Graduate Diploma in Marketing
Michael Waters Deputy Federal Chairperson Diploma in Human Resources
Ivan Meyer Deputy Federal Chairperson Ph.D in Public Administration
James Selfe Federal Council Chairperson Master of Arts
Thomas Walters Deputy Federal Council Chairperson Degree in Political Science
Natasha Mazzone Deputy Federal Council Chairperson Matric (never completed law degree)
Dion George Federal Finance Chairperson BA Honours, MBA, DBL Economics
John Steenhuisen Chief Whip Matric

Economic Freedom Fighters

The EFF’s leadership has made headlines for their academic achievements in recent years. No data could be found for deputy SG Hlengiwe Maxon or treasurer Leigh-Ann Mathys. Most recently, SG Godrich Gardee achieved his LLB.

Member Position Qualification
Julius Malema President BA Honours in Philosophy, Diploma in Youth Development
Floyd Shivambu Deputy President Masters in Political Studies, Honours Degree in International Relations
Godrich Gardee Secretary General LLB, Higher National Diploma in Accounting and Auditing
Hlengiwe Maxon Deputy Secretary General No Data
Leigh-Ann Mathys Treasurer No Data
Dali Mpofu National Chairperson BProc, LLB

Read: New qualifications register to target South Africans that lie on their CVs

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South African party leader qualifications: ANC vs DA vs EFF