A New Dawn for South African Municipalities

Pretoria- The number of local municipalities in South Africa has been reduced to 205 following the 2016 Local Government Elections, the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on elections said on Sunday.

Speaking to the media following this week’s hotly contested elections, the IMC chair and Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs David Van Rooyen said the country’s eight metropolitan municipalities and 44 district municipalities will however remain unchanged.

“The number of local municipalities has been reduced by 21 to 205 and we now have in total 257 municipalities across the country,” said Minister Van Rooyen.

As a result of the change, the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) will monitor the amalgamation of the affected municipalities. The department will also deal with any outstanding transitional issues.

The IMC, which was tasked with providing overall leadership, coordination and planning of the elections, on Sunday thanked South Africans for participating in the successful elections. With elections having come to an end, the nation’s focus is now on the councillors who are expected to deliver on the mandate given to them by voters.

Way forward

“Now that elections are over all thought inevitably begin to turn to the metros and councils, along with the new mayors and new councillors. CoGTA has been preparing for the aftermath of the elections for some time. All systems are in place to ensure an efficient and effective local government,” said the Minister.

New mayors and councillors will be sworn into office across the country in the coming few weeks.

Coalitions are normal in SA democracy

In response to what will happen should political parties in hung councils fail to reach an agreement on forming a council in coalition, Minister Van Rooyen explained that South Africa’s democratic system makes provision for coalitions.

“We expect all political parties to take advantage of that in the interest of service delivery to our people. It is not our wish to get to a situation where because of no arrangement in a municipality the provision of service delivery is compromised,” he said.

The IMC urged political parties to strive for arrangements that will assist “us to continue providing services to our people.”

“What happens if there is no agreement after the prescribed time (14 days) after the declaration of elections is that the Constitution provides both the provincial and national sphere of government an authority to intervene.”

Government can intervene in situations where municipalities are not functional as a result of them being able to reach an agreement or take appropriate decisions trough the provision of Section 139.

“The provision of Section 139 will kick in in situations where we feel that service delivery is compromised as a result of this agreement between political parties. But we are very confident and encouraged by the political maturity that has been demonstrated by various political parties who contested the elections,” said the Minister Van Rooyen.

First Council meetings

Municipal managers of all municipalities across the country have 14 days within which to call the first council meetings. This is envisaged to happen sooner in most cases, said the IMC.

This includes the preparation of handover reports and the development of staff establishments and ward committees. At the meeting of the council, the speaker will be elected after which the speaker will then take over proceedings and facilitate the election of the mayor of each municipality.

The determination of seats for ward and proportional representation has already been calculated according to a set formula set out by the IEC.

There is a set process to be followed to ensure a smooth transition and that municipalities function optimally.

Councillor programme

Going forward, working with the South African Local Government Association, government will ensure the implementation of the Integrated Councillor Induction Programme.

The programme will serve to inform the councillors of their roles and responsibilities in relation to that of officials, the various procedures to be followed, as well as the legislative and other government programmes.

This will include issues such as councillor oversight, good governance principles, delegations and roles and responsibilities among others. The programme will be rolled out as soon as municipalities start working.

While transitional measures are in place, support will be rendered to local government with CoGTA’s Back to Basics programme remaining the bedrock of service provision. It also provides support in terms of skills and finance management.