Local Elections Explained

2015-10-28 11:26


Municipal elections are held every five years to elect councillors who will be responsible for governing a municipality for the next five years.

The current term of office of municipal councils ends on May 18, 2016.

The councillors will serve on the town, city, metropolitan or district councils that ensure services that impact the daily lives of citizens in their areas including water, electricity and sanitation.

The exact date of the 2016 Municipal Elections will only be known when the election is officially proclaimed by the Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs.

In terms of the Constitution the election must be held between May 18 and August 16, 2016.

Local government in South Africa is made up of municipalities which are run by councils.

Categories of municipalities

There are currently three kinds of municipalities:

- metropolitan municipalities, which are big cities

- local municipalities, which are towns and their surrounding rural areas

- district municipalities which coordinate a number of local municipalities in a region

The largest metropolitan areas are governed by metropolitan municipalities, while the rest of the country is divided into district municipalities, each of which consists of several local municipalities.

South Africa’s local government is currently made up of eight metropolitan municipalities, 44 district municipalities, and 207 local municipalities.

The eight metropolitan municipalities are:
- Buffalo City (East London): 392,021 registered voters*
- City of Cape Town: 1,883,592 registered voters*
- City of Johannesburg: 2,152,112 registered voters*
- City of Tshwane (Pretoria): 1,434,931 registered voters*
- Ekurhuleni (East Rand): 1,520,553 registered voters*
- Ethekwini (Durban): 1,800,492 registered voters*
- Mangaung (Bloemfontein): 393,629 registered voters*
- Nelson Mandela Bay (Port Elizabeth): 580,254 registered voters*. 
* Registration figures as at September 2015

How local government works

All municipalities are governed by municipal councils which are elected every five years.

The councils of metropolitan and local municipalities are elected by a system of proportional representation, while the councils of district municipalities are partly elected by proportional representation and partly appointed by the councils of the constituent local municipalities.

Therefore at local government or municipal elections the voters have three ballot papers: one to vote for a candidate for ward councillor, one to vote for a party for the council of the local municipality, and one to vote for a party for the council of the district municipality (if they live in a local municipality).

Most municipal councils are managed by an executive committee, elected executive mayor and a municipal manager.

Municipal demarcation and delimitation: 

The process of electoral management is quite a complex one, and there is perhaps nothing more complex than the process of redrawing ward and voting district boundaries before a municipal election.In South Africa different agencies have different roles to play in this process, including the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), the Members of the Executive Council (MECs), the Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB), and the Electoral Commission. The process is effectively a relay in which every agency has defined legal functions which are true to that office only.

In deciding on boundaries, the MDB considers factors like:

- Existing municipal and provincial boundaries;
- Existing functional boundaries, for example, voting districts, magisterial districts, census boundaries and police districts;
- The movement of people, and the existence of employment and services in the area;
- The financial and administrative ability of a municipality to carry out municipal functions;
- The need for co-ordinated municipal, provincial and national programmes, for example, around health care;
- The need to combine neighbouring areas into integrated municipalities;
- Geographical and environmental factors

Source: http://www.elections.org.za/content/Elections/2016-Municipal-Elections/More-about-municipalities/

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