Explore the captivating life story of Akhona Makalima, the South African female referee

Explore the captivating life story of Akhona Makalima, the South African female referee

Ciku Njuguna
updated at February 3, 2024 at 12:44 PM
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South African referee Akhona Makalima is one of the most capped referees and the first woman in the country to officiate a men's professional football match. The Inter-Refs founder is listed as an international referee by FIFA. This article dives into details of Makalima's personal and professional life.

Akhona Makalima
On the left, Akhona Makalima (in black) in action during a match between Mexico and Germany. On the right, she attends the Momentum Gsport Awards. Photo by Oupa Bopape/Gallo Images/Tim Nwachukwu/FIFA.
Source: Getty Images

In December 2023, the Confederation of African Football named Makalima among the 12 VAR referees for the 2024 TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations tournament. Sports Brief has compiled credible information about Akhona Makalima's life, from her birthdate, education, and relationships to her career.

Akhona Makalima's profile summary

Full name

Akhona Zennith Makalima


SheRef, Babes Wempempe

Date of birth

27 March 1988


35 years old as of February 2024

Zodiac sign


Place of birth

Nqamakwe, Eastern Cape, South Africa


South African


176.7 centimetres (5'8")


Mbuyisa Dalasile


Vuyokazi Dalasile



Relationship status



Msobomvu Secondary School

King Hintsa TVET College





Years active

2014 - present

Net worth

$200,000 - $300,000

Social media pages

Instagram, X(Twitter), Facebook

How old is Akhona Makalima?

Akhona Zennith Makalima was born on the 27th of March 1988 to Vuyokazi Dalasile. Based on Akhona Makalima's age (35 years old as of January 2024), her zodiac sign is Aries.

What is Akhona Makalima's height?

Tabloids report that she stands at five feet and eight inches (176.7 centimetres). She weighs 154 lbs (69.8 kilograms).

Personal information and professional achievements of Akhona Makalima, a South African soccer referee
Akhona Makhalima poses for a photo at the Momentum GSport Awards at Wanderers Club on September 14, 2022, in Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo by Oupa Bopape/Gallo Images.
Source: Getty Images

Akhona Makalima's brief bio

According to I'solezwe, Akhona Makalima's place of birth is a rural village called Ngcisininde, a rural village in Nqamakwe in the Eastern Cape region of South Africa. The second daughter in a family of six (four sisters and one son), Makalima grew up under her grandfather's care with her parents away for work. Her mother, Vuyokazi Dalasile, passed away on the 13th of December 2020.

Is Akhona Makalima married?

The pioneer referee, fondly known as Babes Wempempe to fans, is not dating or married. Many eagerly await news of Akhona Makalima's husband or boyfriend.


Babes Wampempe matriculated at the Msobomvu Secondary School. She later pursued a national diploma course in Human Resource Management from King Hintsa FET College.

Akhona Makalima (left) and Andile Ncube pose for a photo
Akhona Makalima (left) and Andile Ncube (right) pose for a photo during the Metro FM Music Awards at Inanda Club on March 30, 2023, in Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo by Oupa Bopape/Gallo Images.
Source: Getty Images


Akhona's athletic abilities are more comprehensive than just refereeing. Growing up, she actively participated in athletics, softball, volleyball and football. She played for Ilitha FC and FET provincial team, where she served as the assistant captain.

Speaking to Drum, Makalima expressed the challenges she faced early in her career. She said,

“I knew I was breaking into a world most people believed was for men, and I had to prove myself. I also want people to know that this job is not about gender. People do not have faith in you as a referee at first. Players will try to take advantage and throw all sorts of words in your face. Managers and coaches will frown once they see their match is refereed by a lady.”

Known for her tough-as-nails demeanour on the field, her thirst to become a referee was inspired by Yonela Mahamba, a female referee in East Province. She began in SAFA’s local football association structure in 2011.

Akhona Makalima issues a yellow card to one of Germany's players during a World Cup match against Mexico.
Makalima issues a yellow card to Germany's Lisanne Graewe (#6) during the Under-20 Women's World Cup match against Mexico on August 16, 2022, in Alajuela, Costa Rica. Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/FIFA.
Source: Getty Images

She was officially recruited in the same year during a Chris Hani memorial tournament in her hometown. Her first major league appearance was recorded in 2014 during a South African Premier Soccer League tournament.

Refereeing stats

Sports Brief has used data from credible sources such as Transfermarkt, Soccer Way and World Football to provide details of her appearances. Have a look at a summary of some of the most recent club and international matches she has officiated.



Yellow card

Second yellow card

Red card

International friendlies





FIFA Women's World Cup 2023





Africa Cup of Nations 2023 (Under-17)





Africa Cup of Nations 2023 (Under-20)





Africa Cup of Nations 2021 (Under-20)





PSL Promotion-Relegation Playoff





Premier Soccer League





Nedbank Cup





DStv Premiership





Frequently asked questions

The South African umpire has founded a sports program, Inter Refs, to educate young girls about the rules and regulations of football. She has also received recognition for her style on and off the field with the 2021 Estée Lauder Style Star Award. Here are more facts about the umpire.

Akhona Makalima at a Momentum GSport Awards 2022 event
Akhona Makhalima poses for a phot at the Momentum GSport Awards at Wanderers Club on September 14, 2022, in Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo by Oupa Bopape/Gallo Images.
Source: Getty Images

1. Is Akhona Makalima on Instagram?

Being one of the umpires for the Women's World Cup, she has developed an active presence on social media. Her Instagram account has 102,000 followers on Instagram, 25,091 followers on X, and 23,000 followers on Facebook as of January 2024.

2. How much is Akhona Makalima's net worth?

According to Zivuga, the female football referee's net worth ranges between $200,000 - $300,000. Team Kenya estimates that the salary of a South African referee is $280, while an assistant referee receives $215 per match. The officials are also guaranteed a minimum monthly wage of $225.

3. Has Akhona Makalima officiated FIFA World Cup matches?

Akhona was among the 12 referees appointed to officiate the 2023 Women's World Cup. The Australia & New Zealand Women’s World Cup tournament, which ran from 20th July to 20th August 2023, was her first FIFA assignment.

Speaking to CAFonline after the tournament, she expressed her joy in being among the few selected to officiate the games. She said,

"Heading to the World Cup was emotional. I was filled with gratitude. Finally, my hard work paid off, and I was selected for the world's highest women's football competition. It was a happy day for myself, my family and the country."

4. Did Akhona Makalima officiate AFCON 2023?

On the 22nd of December 2023, 68 AFCON 2023 match officials were named by CAF, including 12 VAR referees, 30 referees, and 26 assistant referees. Five of the 68 were female officials, including Makalima, Karboubi Bouchra, Salima Mukansanga, and Rivet Maria Pakuita Cinquela. Have a look at the pictures of Akhona Makalima's appearances at different tournaments.

Akhona Zennith Makalima in action during various matches.
Akhona Makalima pictured in action during various matches. Photo by @AkhonaSheRef.
Source: Facebook

Final word

Akhona Makalima is a fast-rising referee at global, continental, and national football levels. Her influence on the sports education of young girls in her home country is commendable.

READ ALSO: How to become a Premier League referee: Here is what you need to do to become a referee in the EPL

Sports Brief has published an article highlighting the process of becoming a referee in the English Premier League. The report provides a comprehensive guideline of the stages of coaching certifications and the requirements needed for sports enthusiasts aiming to become match officials. Click on the link above for all the requirements for the job.

Ciku Njuguna photo
Ciku Njuguna
Ciku Njuguna is a journalist with 3 year’s experience in content creation based in Kenya. She currently covers sports personnel as well as team biographies.
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