What are Municipalities and how are they structured?

In this podcast we describe the different types of municipalities that exist in South Africa and how they are structured and function.

Municipalities are geographical areas which the Municipal Demarcation Board defines. The provincial Minister of Local Government establishes municipalities which are governed through Municipal councils.

There are 3 categories of municipalities in South Africa, namely metropolitan, district, and local. Metropolitan municipalities or metros exist in the 8 biggest cities. Areas that fall outside the metros are divided into local municipalities. District municipalities are made up of a number of local municipalities that fall into one district. Apart from district municipalities, all municipalities are divided into wards.

Municipal councilors are elected every five years during local government elections. Most voters vote once for a political party on the basis of proportional representation and once for an individual in their ward. In local and metropolitan councils, party representatives make up 50% of the councillors – the other 50% is made up of directly elected ward councillors. In local municipalities each voter also votes for a party to represent them on the district council. 40% of district council seats are accorded to parties on the basis of the proportional representation ballot. 60% of seats are allocated to the local councils in that district area.

Municipal councils vote for a speaker, who applies the rules of order. Municipal councils also elect a mayor and a deputy mayor who appoints council members to form the mayoral committee. Some decisions of the council must be made by majority which others are made by the Mayoral Committee. The municipal council can also delegate matters to the Mayoral Committee to speed up decisions. The Mayor can also make certain decisions on his or her own. The public has a right to participate in the decisions.

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