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