South Africa’s youngest MP ever – who will get a starting salary of R100,000 a month

 ·12 Jun 2024

The upcoming seventh democratic Parliament of South Africa is set to feature a broader spectrum of age groups among its representatives, as well as the youngest Member of Parliament (MPs) in South Africa’s democratic history.

This comes as female representation shows a slight decrease compared to the previous administration.

All eyes are now focused on the forthcoming make-up of the 400-seat National Assembly (NA), who according to chairperson of the Electoral Commission (IEC) Mosotho Moepya “reflect the choices, hopes, and aspirations of millions of citizens who exercised their democratic rights.”

Parliament age facts

Graphic: Seth Thorne

Moepya revealed that the NA can expect a slightly younger average Parliamentary fleet compared to that seen in the sixth administration, with members ranging from 20 to the eldest at 76.

According to information provided by the IEC, the youngest incoming parliamentarian is Patriotic Alliance youth activist Cleo Wilskut, who turned 20 on 27 April.

Wilskut will follow in the footsteps of the ANC’s Itumeleng Ntsube, who, at 21, previously became South Africa’s youngest MP in 2019.

Cleo Wilskut. Photo: Patriotic Alliance, X.

Notably, these young political leaders are debuting in parliament as some of the highest-paid individuals in the country, with MPs now earning R1.27 million a year (over R100,000 a month) following president Cyril Ramaphosa’s approval to hike salaries by 2.5%.

This makes all MPs—young and old—top 3% earners in the country.

On the other end of the age spectrum, the oldest incoming MP is Democratic Alliance’s former Chief Whip and Caucus Leader for the North West Provincial Legislature Christian Hattingh, who recently turned 76 on 2 June.

Christian Hattingh. Photo: People’s Assembly
Age demographic7th Parliament compositionSouth Africa’s population make-up
20 – 293.0%17.8%
30 – 3916.8%17.4%
40 – 4927.5%12.1%
50 -5927.5%8.5%
60 – 6922.5%6.0%
70 – 792.8%2.7%
Population statistics source: StatsSA 2022 census

Looking broadly at the seventh National Assembly’s composition compared to that of South Africa’s population, the 20 to 29 age demographic has the largest discrepancies in representation, sporting a 3% NA makeup when the cohort is nearly 18% of South Africa’s total population.

This is nothing new to political and Parliamentary representation. Thus far, four African countries, namely Rwanda, Morocco, Kenya and Uganda, have implemented legislation to reserve seats for youth representatives in hopes of counter-balancing this discrepancy in representation.

Although there are no readily available statistics like those presented above for the sixth Parliament, the Parliamentary Monitoring Group (PMG) conducted a study in 2021 to determine the youth composition of Parliament then.

While there are 400 NA MPs, the study excluded Ministers and Deputy Ministers, thus looking at 342 MPs (86% of total). From this, it determined that the age composition of those in Parliament not within cabinet was:

Sixth Parliament (2019 – 2024) age demographics (non-cabinet members). Table: Parliamentary Monitoring Group

Gender composition

During the sixth Parliament, South Africa often ranked within the top 10 of the Inter-Parliamentary Union rankings for world parliaments with the highest representation of women.

Looking at the gender composition of the seventh Parliament, female representation has experienced a slight decline, dropping from 45% (181) in 2019, to 43.5% (174) elected members who are women in 2024.

Graphic: Seth Thorne

“Despite this decrease, the National Assembly remains dedicated to advancing gender parity and continues to be a significant player on the global stage for its efforts in promoting women’s representation in politics,” said Secretary to Parliament, Xolile George.

The full list of elected NA representatives set to be sworn in on Friday, 14 March, can be found below:

Read: This isn’t 1994: South Africa heading into the unknown with GNU 2024

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