South Africa: Municipal structures and balloting

EISA civic education workshop, 2006

Updated March 2006

South African local governments have varying structures which depend on the population size and density of the council concerned.

Metropolitan Councils

Metropolitan Councils govern large economically integrated urban conurbations; these are Johannesburg, Tshwane (Pretoria), Ekurhuleni (East Rand) in Gauteng, eThekwini (Durban) in KwaZulu-Natal, Nelson Mandela (Port Elizabeth) in the Eastern Cape and Cape Town in the Western Cape (EISA 2006, 8-9).

Half the councillors are elected to represent wards in plurality elections, while the other half are elected by proportional representation (PR) from party lists. A voter in metropolitan areas thus receives two ballots at a local government election, one to select a ward councillor and a second to select a party (EISA 2006, 9).

Municipal Councils and District Councils

Local Councils govern smaller urban settlements as well as most rural areas. If they are large enough to divide into seven or more wards then the council structure and balloting is the same as for a Metropolitan Area. If they are too small to divide into seven wards then all the councillors are elected by PR (EISA 2006, 9-10).

Local Councils are grouped together in functional economic units governed by a District Council (DC). The DCs are constituted of members directly elected by voters by PR, which form 60% of their total. The other 40% are elected by the Local Councils under their jurisdiction (EISA 2006, 10).

A voter may thus receive two or three ballots in a local government election depending on the size of the Local Council they are registered in. Residents of small Local Councils will receive two ballots, a PR ballot to vote for the party of their choice to represent them in the Local Council and another to vote for the party of their choice to represent them in the District Council (EISA 2006, 10). Voters in larger councils will receive three ballots, one for selecting a ward councillor, and two PR ballots for Local and District Councils respectively.

District Management Areas

Very sparsely settled rural areas such as deserts or wild life reserves have no Local Councils and are constituted as District Management Areas (DMA) and fall under a District Council (EISA 2006, 11).

Voters in these areas receive two PR ballots during local government elections, both for the DC (EISA 2006, 11).


EISA 2006 Handbook on Legislation and Regulations for South Africa's Local Government Elections 2006, 8-11.