Why lo­cal gov­ern­ment mat­ters

CityPress - - Voices & Careers -

Lo­cal gov­ern­ment is the sphere of gov­ern­ment clos­est to us, and it gov­erns the way we live and work. Elec­tric­ity de­liv­ery; Wa­ter for house­hold use; Sewage and san­i­ta­tion; Storm wa­ter sys­tems; Refuse re­moval; Fire fight­ing ser­vices; Mu­nic­i­pal health ser­vices; De­ci­sions around land use; Mu­nic­i­pal roads; Mu­nic­i­pal pub­lic trans­port; Street trad­ing; Abat­toirs and fresh food mar­kets; Parks and recre­ational ar­eas; Li­braries and other fa­cil­i­ties; and Lo­cal tourism.

Na­tional or pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment can also del­e­gate other re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties. When mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties are asked to per­form the role of an­other sphere of gov­ern­ment, clear agree­ments should be made about who will pay the cost.

If mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties are given re­spon­si­bil­ity for some­thing with­out be­ing given a bud­get to do the work, it is called an “un­funded man­date”.

Mu­nic­i­pal coun­cils have the power to:

.Pass by­laws – lo­cal laws and reg­u­la­tions about any of the func­tions they are re­spon­si­ble for. By­laws may not con­tra­dict or over­rule any na­tional laws.

Ap­prove bud­gets and devel­op­ment plans – ev­ery year, a mu­nic­i­pal bud­get must be passed that sets down how money will be raised and spent. The coun­cil should ap­prove an over­all plan for how devel­op­ment should take place in the area.

This is called an in­te­grated devel­op­ment plan (IDP) and all projects and plan­ning should hap­pen within the frame­work of the IDP.

Im­pose rates and other taxes – prop­erty rates are a form of tax that mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties can place on the value of prop­er­ties. It is an im­por­tant source of in­come.

Charge ser­vice fees for mu­nic­i­pal ser­vices such as wa­ter, elec­tric­ity, li­braries, etc.

Im­pose fines on any­one who breaks mu­nic­i­pal by laws or reg­u­la­tions, for ex­am­ple, traf­fic fines, lit­ter­ing or li­brary fines.

Bor­row money – the coun­cil may agree to take a loan for a devel­op­ment or other project and use the mu­nic­i­pal as­sets as surety.

De­ci­sions about most of the above must be made in full coun­cil meet­ings. Many of the mi­nor de­ci­sions that mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties have to make can be del­e­gated to the ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee, port­fo­lio com­mit­tees or to of­fi­cials or other agen­cies that are con­tracted to de­liver ser­vices.

When other agen­cies de­liver ser­vices, it is im­por­tant that the mu­nic­i­pal coun­cil keeps po­lit­i­cal power.

Coun­cils have to de­velop sys­tems to en­sure that del­e­gated func­tions are per­formed prop­erly and within a clear pol­icy frame­work.

The con­tracts must be drawn up to en­sure that agen­cies stick to agree­ments.

Coun­cils are elected ev­ery five years. The last elec­tion was held on Au­gust 3 2016. There are ba­si­cally two types of elec­tions: one for metro coun­cils and one for lo­cal coun­cils.

Metro coun­cils:

In a met­ro­pol­i­tan mu­nic­i­pal­ity, each voter will vote once for a po­lit­i­cal party on a pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion bal­lot. The par­ties will then be given seats ac­cord­ing to the per­cent­age of votes that they re­ceived in the met­ro­pol­i­tan area as a whole. Each party has a list of can­di­dates and the coun­cil­lors are drawn from this list.

Each voter will also re­ceive a bal­lot for their ward with the names of the ward can­di­dates. The per­son who re­ceives the most votes in a ward will win that seat. Ward can­di­dates may stand as rep­re­sen­ta­tives of par­ties or as in­de­pen­dents.

Metro coun­cils may also set up sub­coun­cils to serve dif­fer­ent parts of their mu­nic­i­pal­ity. Sub-coun­cils are not elected di­rectly by vot­ers. Ex­ist­ing coun­cil­lors are al­lo­cated to serve on each sub-coun­cil.

Lo­cal coun­cils:

In a lo­cal mu­nic­i­pal­ity, each voter will vote once for a po­lit­i­cal party on a pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion bal­lot. The par­ties will then be given seats ac­cord­ing to the per­cent­age of votes that they re­ceived in the area as a whole. Each voter will also re­ceive a bal­lot for their ward with the names of the ward can­di­dates. The can­di­date who re­ceives the most votes in a ward will win that seat. Ward can­di­dates may stand as rep­re­sen­ta­tives of par­ties or as in­de­pen­dents.

Dis­trict coun­cils:

Ev­ery voter in a lo­cal mu­nic­i­pal­ity will also vote for the dis­trict coun­cil that their lo­cal area is part of. The dis­trict mu­nic­i­pal­ity bal­lot will have party names on it and the seats will be al­lo­cated ac­cord­ing to the per­cent­age of votes that the par­ties gained in the whole dis­trict mu­nic­i­pal area.

Not all coun­cil­lors serv­ing on a dis­trict coun­cil are di­rectly elected. Only 40% of the seats will be given to par­ties on the ba­sis of the votes they got on the pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion (PR) bal­lot.

The re­main­ing 60% of seats on the dis­trict coun­cil will be al­lo­cated to the lo­cal coun­cils in that area. Each lo­cal coun­cil will be given a num­ber of seats and must send coun­cil­lors from their ranks to fill those seats.

The seats should be filled ac­cord­ing to the sup­port that par­ties have in a spe­cific coun­cil.

So, for ex­am­ple, if a lo­cal mu­nic­i­pal­ity is given five seats on the dis­trict coun­cil and the ANC gained 60% of the seats on the lo­cal coun­cil, the ANC coun­cil­lors should fill three of the five seats.

The other two seats should be al­lo­cated to other par­ties ac­cord­ing to their strength.

The struc­tures of coun­cil

All coun­cils have the fol­low­ing struc­tures: A mayor, who heads the coun­cil; An ex­ec­u­tive or may­oral com­mit­tee, which meets reg­u­larly to co­or­di­nate the work of coun­cil and make rec­om­men­da­tions to coun­cil;

A speaker (ex­cept in very small coun­cils), who chairs coun­cil meet­ings;

Coun­cil meet­ings, where the full coun­cil meets to make de­ci­sions; and

Com­mit­tees, where a few coun­cil­lors meet to dis­cuss spe­cific is­sues.

PHOTO: AP PHOTO

GROUND­BREAK­ING In this file pic­ture, taken on May 8 1996, former pres­i­dent Nel­son Man­dela has just ap­proved South Africa’s new Con­sti­tu­tion in Par­lia­ment

PHOTO: GALLO IM­AGES / SOWETAN / SANDILE NDLOVU

Ev­ery lo­cal gov­ern­ment in South Africa is re­spon­si­ble for pro­vid­ing its cit­i­zens with ser­vices such as wa­ter for house­hold use, elec­tric­ity, parks and recre­ational ar­eas, as well as space for in­for­mal traders to sell their goods

This is what your lo­cal gov­ern­ment is re­spon­si­ble for: IN THE MIX

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