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Local government elections explained

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The local government elections are just ten days away! As we reported last week, power is shifting and your vote could lead to meaningful change. 

In this week’s election round-up, we’ll be taking a look at how elections actually work and how you can best inform your decision. 

  1. How local government elections work

Local government elections take place every five years and seek to choose new leaders for metropolitan, district and local municipalities across South Africa. There are eight metropolitan municipalities (these are the six big cities), 44 districts and 226 local municipalities. These municipalities are responsible for delivering services like water, electricity and sanitation to their areas. 

  1. Who do I vote for? 

Firstly, you need to make sure that you have registered to vote. You only have to register once, unless you moved your place of residence. 

A voter living in one of the eight metropolitan municipalities in South Africa, which include: Buffalo City (East London), City of Cape Town, Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality (East Rand), City of eThekwini (Durban), City of Johannesburg, Mangaung Municipality (Bloemfontein), Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Municipality (Port Elizabeth) and City of Tshwane (Pretoria), you will have to vote for the metropolitan council ward and a party for the council – you’ll get two ballot papers. 

A voter living outside of a metropolitan municipality or in a local council will have to vote for a ward councillor, a party for the council of the local municipality, and a party for the council of the district municipality – so you’ll get three ballot papers. 

  1. How do I decide who to vote for? 

More than 1 000 parties have registered to participate in the elections, but only 325 will participate this year. We encourage you to read up on party manifestos and get to know your local councillors before you vote. You can use this nifty tool to find out who is running in your municipality. You just have to punch in your address, and if you’re not sure who to vote for, check out News24’s super comprehensive dashboard which will give you more insight on the council’s state of affairs and past performance.

The other good thing about these elections is that you are super spoiled for choice. Aside from the three major parties (ANC, DA and EFF) you can choose a smaller party or an independent candidate. 

  • To read more about some of the party manifestos, go here.
  • To see how parties’ manifesto launches went, go here.
  1.  What are coalition governments? 

These are when two or more parties share power in a municipality, usually, because no single party won by a majority. In this year’s elections, smaller parties are pretty confident that they will be part of coalitions, especially with major parties like the ANC and DA losing voter support. Democratic Alliance leader John Steenhusein said he is relocating to Gauteng for the remainder of the campaign because he fears the DA could lose control of Tshwane which they govern through a coalition with the ACDP and Freedom Front Plus. Other opposition parties target its support base and former Mayor Herman Mashaba’s ActionSA poses the biggest threat in Tshwane and Johannesburg metros. 

UDM has also made their intentions clear that they are well on their road to becoming the kingmakers in Gqeberha as they put it, they won’t make any promises but rather make it mandatory to deliver services to the residents of Nelson Mandela Bay. On the other hand, EFF at the beginning of the election claimed that they are not looking for any coalitions they aim for 100% take over in municipalities but now they are saying they are open to coalitions only if they have the upper hand.

The future of coalitions is not bright as there is always a fight to hold power. For example in Eastern Cape there have been 6 mayors in the past 2 years and the saga in Tshwane which led to the municipality being under administration. “Smaller parties are generally unknown. They will need to make a bigger effort to ensure they reach the public and ensure that their often untested candidates make an impact. With how things are, they might not be able to do so effectively,” said political analyst Levy Ndou.

But they CAN bring winds of change to SA’s politics, if done right.