Political Parties capacity building: South Africa


South African political parties as employers

After submission of a proposal during December 2015, EISA was awarded a contract to undertake research on four political parties in South Africa to determine a socio economic profile and the employment practices of the political parties sector. A key focus will be on identifying the scarce and critical skills shortages facing political parties and in identifying their training, development and capacity needs. A full quantitative survey research instrument was developed as well as supplementary key informant discussion guide. These were disseminated to the four key political parties and briefing meetings were held with the main opposition and ruling parties on 16 March 2016.


The period until March 2015 saw EISA strengthening established working relationships and developing new working relationships to deliver effectively on the different projects in the Political Parties and Parliamentary Programme. Events were primarily linked to research and publishing, development of training and capacity building materials, conducting training and capacity building workshop and the public profiling of EISA's core projects through hosting a public seminar

Women and youth participation in parties

A series of workshops were held in 2015 based on the 2014 EISA partnership with the NGO Youth Lab. During these meetings, a comprehensive set of training materials titled "Understanding the Youth and Youth Sensitive Budgeting" was developed. The following report was observed at these workshops :

  • The workshop attracted the participation of one elected Member of Parliament, two elected Members of the KZN Provincial Parliament and two elected Local Councilor's, as well as significant representation from elected youth leaders and high level leaders from the Provincial leadership of the different political parties.
  • Five opposition political parties in the Kwa-Zulu Natal provincial legislature attended a workshop held from the 4 to the 6 August 2015 in Durban, but the ruling ANC did not attend, nor did the EFF.
  • Ten participants were women and 19 participants were below the age of 35.
Political party benchmarking

A series of three meetings was held with the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) political party in South Africa. As a new political party, the party required consultation and advice in preparation for hosting their inaugural provincial and national elective conference. The consultations were based on designing a policy deliberation process that was both inclusive and participatory. Moreover, the advice included information on designing an electoral process that was free, fair and transparent, which allowed all members of the party a say in the process of electing it's provincial and national leaders. The consultations culminated in a meeting with the EFF leadership and an EISA delegation at which a presentation was made regarding the optimal procedure and process of conducting their internal leadership elections. EISA, apart from providing advice based on the Benchmarks declined managing and administering the actual electoral process.

In preparation for the political parties dialogues on the political party benchmarks and the diagnosis on the problems in the enhanced implementation of benchmarks in political party systems, training materials titled "Political Parties Institutional and Organizational Development" was developed.

The material covered a range of themes including :

  • What is Politics and How do we Understand it ?
  • What is Democracy and what is a democratic politics?
  • What is Governance and What is Democratic Governance?
  • Where do we locate political parties within a system of democratic Governance?
  • Elements of the Party System and the impact of party system interaction.

A political dialogue was held in Johannesburg from 21 to 22 October 2015 and all the parties represented in the National Assembly were invited to the workshop however only 13 participants from 6 political parties attended. Significant to note was the attendance of both the governing ANC and the main opposition party, the DA. The ANC was represented by a senior researcher of its Parliamentary staff and the DA by an elected local Councillor. COPE was also represented by an elected local councillor and the African Christian Democratic Party was represented by its secretary general and an elected MP. The other parties were likewise represented by senior elected members. From the attendees, four participants were women, and four below the age of 35 five.


As part of EISA's efforts to assist new and developing political parties, the institution reached out to several newly formed parties, some of whom gained representation in the new Parliament. Such parties included; the African Independent Congress, the Bushbuckridge Residents Association, Agang SA and the Economic Freedom Fighters. The assistance given to these political parties increased their exposure to new areas of capacity building and political networking.

Political party training in South Africa

Together with the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC), EISA produced and published a training manual for political party agents on their roles and functions as well as materials on understanding the electoral process. A 'train the trainer' approach was used to enable political parties to train poll-watchers within their own party. Training was conducted jointly with the IEC and was attended by 49 participants from 23 South African political parties ahead of and in preparation for the 2014 South African elections.

Youth participation in South Africa

In South Africa, EISA partnered with the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) to produce materials and provide training to South African political parties with a focus on younger women.

EISA partnered with the NGO Youth Lab, specialists on youth focused issues and policy and developed a comprehensive set of training materials titled "Understanding the Youth and Youth Sensitive Budgeting", was produced and published. The materials looked at understanding youth through exploring legal definitions, understanding the youth as different phases and stages of life rather than as a constituency, as well as identifying the nature of the changing priorities amongst the youth as they progress through different stages of the youth cohort. Additionally, understanding budget analysis and prioritization was done to focus on areas that impact the youth and their development.

The course took place from 8-9 December 2014 in the form of a two-day training workshop in Johannesburg and was attended by delegates from a cross-section of eight different political parties in South Africa. Participants across the eight parties in attendance were almost exclusively from amongst the youth with a bias towards women. The group featured two members of parliament, three councilors, high-ranking members of the political parties' and respective Youth League Executives. Participants included the ruling African National Congress, which previously was not an active participant in EISA's political party work.

Upon the completion of this training, participants from all parties encouraged an expanded roll-out of this programme, as this was regarded as a sound innovation.


EISA in 2013 sought to strengthen and cultivate existing and new partnerships with political parties as well as a range of other stakeholders working in the field of political parties and parliament. As part of this drive, EISA introduced a new approach that targeted women and youth within parties and focused on:

  1. Building the capacity of women and youth to participate more actively within political parties,
  2. Supporting the implementation of the Political Party Benchmarks which were developed by EISA together with political parties from across the African continent where necessary and applicable, and
  3. Provide training and support to political parties in election poll watching.
Consultations in South Africa to identify areas of need

In view of the 2014 South African elections, consultations with political parties in South Africa were prioritized. Consultative meetings were held with five political parties, including the ruling party and the official opposition establishing an excellent base for the continued credibility of EISA's interventions, as well as identifying areas of need in political parties in order to tailor responsive interventions.


Political parties' internal organisation and capacity in SADC strengthened

Pursuant to extensive training workshops conducted in Botswana in 2011, support to political parties continued in 2012 through the provision of training workshops. In South Africa, training programmes occurred on a decentralized basis in the Northern Cape Province in Kimberley and attracted participants from two regions of the country, the Northern Cape Province and the Free State Province. These first sessions were attended by 25 participants drawn from the five main Parties, the African National Congress (ANC), Democratic Alliance (DA), Congress of the People (COPE), Independent Democrats (ID) and Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP).

The second held in Durban, KwaZulu Natal province, drew 22 participants from among the five main opposition parties of the DA, COPE, IFP, ID and United democratic Movement (UDM).

A third workshop, held in Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape Province, also drew 22 participants from the four main opposition parties, COPE, the Azanian Peoples Organisation (AZAPO), the African Peoples Convention (APC) and the United Democratic Movement (UDM).

South African political parties as employers

EISA along with its new partners; Education Training and Development Pratices (ETDP) Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA), worked on new thematic areas of work related to political parties as employers undertaken over an eight month period. EISA was contracted to conduct research among political parties as employers to inform the SETA's annual skills planning. This was the first time that information of this nature would become available on the country's political parties. A comprehensive research report was drafted and contains data about the driver's of change, demand and supply for skills, the factors affecting employment as well as supply and demand within political parties. In addition to the above, it identifies what the scarce and critical skills are as well as charts the current demographic profile of employees in the main political parties of South Africa.


Through the political parties programme, women and youth leagues have gained a better understanding of their own political parties and affairs. From the sessions held, women comprised more than two thirds of participants in the workshops due to EISA's insistence that parties ensure representation of women and youth as participants in all the workshops.

The working relationship between EISA and the electoral commission (IEC) was heightened judging from the IEC's participation in EISA workshops and further advancing their voter education programme at these platforms.

In South Africa the programme not only expanded its geographical reach but also opened up to various stakeholders including the media. In geographic expansion, the programme gave importance to South African provinces that were not fully part of the mainstream political and public discourse. Four workshops were conducted in the North West, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Northern Cape provinces in South Africa. This allowed for the capacity development of members of political parties from peripheral provinces and allowed them to gain the confidence and skills to form part of party deliberations. The workshops were also attended by media representatives who were able to gain insight into the different political parties and thereby improve their own capacity to report on these parties in their stories. As a result of the exposure of regional and local structures to the media, media coverage of party structures and activities outside the metropolitan areas was improved.