South African Female Leaders

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela
Famous As: Politician, Anti-Apartheid Activist
Birthdate: September 26, 1936
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Bizana, Eastern Cape
Died: April 2, 2018
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela had first met legendary anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela at a bus stop when she was barely 22. They ended up getting married the following year. Winnie’s journey was marred by bans and harassment by the South African government, but the determined social worker revolutionized South African politics.

 2 Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: January 27, 1949
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Natal Province

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is a South African anti-apartheid activist, politician, and doctor. One of the most popular South African politicians of her generation, Dlamini-Zuma has served as the country's minister of health, minister of foreign affairs, and minister of home affairs at different periods of time.

 3 Zindzi Mandela

Zindzi Mandela
Famous As: Diplomat
Birthdate: December 23, 1960
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Johannesburg, South Africa
Died: July 13, 2020

Zindzi Mandela was a South African poet and diplomat best known as the daughter of the famous anti-apartheid activist, Nelson Mandela. From 1996 to 1998, she also served as a temporary First Lady of South Africa. Over the years, she has been portrayed in films and TV films, such as Mrs Mandela (2009), Invictus (2009), and Mandela (1987).

 4 Helen Zille

Helen Zille
Famous As: Politician, Journalist
Birthdate: March 9, 1951
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Johannesburg

Helen Zille is a South African anti-apartheid activist and politician. A former journalist, Zille played a major role in exposing the cover-up surrounding the death of Steve Biko, a fellow anti-apartheid activist. In 2008, she was chosen as World Mayor of the Year.

 5 Ela Gandhi

Ela Gandhi
Famous As: politician
Birthdate: June 1, 1940
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Durban
Ela Gandhi is a South African politician and peace activist whose immense contribution to society and politics is widely recognized. Over the years, she has been honored with several prestigious awards, such as the Community of Christ International Peace Award, Padma Bhushan award, Shanti Doot International Award, and Pravasi Bharatiya Samman. 

 6 Mamphela Ramphele

Mamphela Ramphele
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: December 28, 1947
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Transvaal

 7 Baleka Mbete

Baleka Mbete
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: September 24, 1949
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Transvaal

Baleka Mbete is a South African politician who served as the deputy president of South Africa under President Kgalema Motlanthe. From 2014 to 2019, she also served as South Africa's Speaker of the National Assembly. One of the most controversial South African politicians in the recent past, Mbete is an associate of Tony Yengeni, who was accused of defrauding parliament.

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 8 Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: November 3, 1955
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Durban

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the UN Under-Secretary-General, was initially a teacher and has also worked at the World YWCA. A women’s rights activist, she works for gender equality and education and has established the Umlambo Foundation. She has also been the South African deputy president. Four of her five children are adopted.

 9 Helen Suzman

Helen Suzman
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: November 7, 1917
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Germiston
Died: January 1, 2009

Born to Lithuanian immigrants in South Africa, Helen Suzman studied commerce and economics, and initially worked as a statistician and a lecturer. A vocal anti-apartheid activist, she later worked for human rights causes and also oversaw the country’s first democratic election as an Independent Electoral Commission member.

 10 Ruth First

Ruth First
Famous As: Author, Politician, University teacher, Writer, Journalist, Martyr, Political activist
Birthdate: May 4, 1925
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Johannesburg
Died: August 17, 1982

South African activist/journalist Ruth First is remembered for her relentless fight against apartheid. Born to Latvian immigrants and founders of the South African Communist Party, First was later tried for treason and detained. While working at a Mozambican university in exile, she was assassinated in a parcel bomb attack

 11 Manto Tshabalala-Msimang

Manto Tshabalala-Msimang
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: October 9, 1940
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Durban, South Africa
Died: December 16, 2009

Manto Tshabalala-Msimang was a South African politician who served as the Deputy Minister of Justice from 1996 to 1999. She was appointed the minister of health under President Thabo Mbeki in 1999. She earned considerable criticism for suggesting the AIDS epidemic should be treated with easily accessible vegetables such as African potato, beetroot, and garlic rather than with antiretroviral medicines. 

 12 Adelaide Tambo

Adelaide Tambo
Famous As: Political figure
Birthdate: July 18, 1929
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Vereeniging, South Africa
Died: January 31, 2007

Adelaide Tambo, also known as Mama Tambo, had decided to fight against police atrocities after witnessing her grandfather being falsely accused of engaging in riots. Initially a nurse, she grew up to be an anti-apartheid activist, founded various pan-African movements, and married African National Congress leader Oliver Tambo.

 13 Janet Smith

Janet Smith
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: 1915 AD
Birthplace: Cape Town, Cape Province, South Africa
Died: December 3, 1994

Educator Janet Smith is best remembered as the wife of former Rhodesian prime minister Ian Smith. Born to Scottish parents in Cape Town, Janet was a talented hockey player and later married a rugby player. Her first husband died in an accident during a rugby practice match.

 14 Dianne Kohler Barnard

Dianne Kohler Barnard
Famous As: Politician, Journalist
Birthdate: December 2, 1955
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Port Elizabeth

Dianne Kohler Barnard had a 23-year stint as a radio and print journalist before she plunged into politics. The South African politician who represents the Democratic Alliance is the MP from KwaZulu-Natal. A Facebook post made by her, that indicated she preferred life under the apartheid, almost got her expelled.

 15 Ellen Kuzwayo

Ellen Kuzwayo
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: June 29, 1914
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Orange Free State, South Africa
Died: April 19, 2006

Politician, educator, and women’s rights activist Ellen Kuzwayo lost her family farm in Thaba Nchu, when the land was declared a whites-only area. She divorced her abusive husband and later related her ordeal in the CNA Award-winning book Call Me Woman. She had also been an African National Congress MP.

 16 Victoria Chitepo

Victoria Chitepo
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: March 27, 1928
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Dundee, South Africa
Died: April 8, 2016

Victoria Chitepo, better known as the wife of Zimbabwe African National Union leader Herbert Chitepo, is remembered for her fight for Black rights and her association with the National Democratic Party. She had also been a minister of tourism and telecommunications. In 2016, she was found dead in her home.

 17 Martha Mmola

Martha Mmola
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: 0000 AD
Birthplace: South African
Died: July 18, 2020
South African politician Martha Mmola, who was an African National Congress member, had been a delegate to the National Council of Provinces. As part of the National Assembly, she had served the portfolio committee on police and the standing committee on defense. In 2020, she died of COVID-19-related complications.

 18 Phindiwe Sangweni

Phindiwe Sangweni
Famous As: Politician, Lawyer and Businessperson
Birthdate: December 2, 1963
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Ixopo, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa