News / South Africa / Elections / Local Elections 2021

Citizen Reporter
Reporter
2 minute read
25 Oct 2021
4:29 pm

EXPLAINER: How are local elections conducted in South Africa?

Citizen Reporter

There are three main types of electoral systems in the world.

Lines at the voting station in Saulsville in Attidgeville, Tshwane. Picture: Gallo Images/Alet Pretorius

The 2021 local government elections are set to take place on 1 November, and it will mark South Africa’s sixth municipal elections since the dawn of democracy in 1994.

SA’s electoral system

Before moving on, one needs to understand South Africa’s electoral system.

There are three main types of electoral systems in the world, namely the proportional representation (PR), constituency-based and mixed or hybrid system, according to Education and Training Unit (ETU).

The PR system has been defined as when citizens vote for a party and the party gets seats according to the percentage of votes it received.

Each party then decides on candidates or members to fill the seats it has won.

ALSO READ: ‘Vote for small party if you want Change’

Constituency-based is a system that elects an individual to represent an certain area and the mixed system combines a PR and a constituency system.

While the PR system is used for the national and provincial elections, for local elections the mixed system is used in which half the seats in local and metro councils come from the PR system and half from the constituency-based (ward) system.

When do municipal elections happen?

This year’s elections are not to be confused with the national and provincial elections as some have wondered how often are municipal elections held in South Africa.

Well, municipal councils are elected every five years.

This means that local elections take place every half-a-decade to elect councils for all district, metropolitan and local municipalities in each of the country’s nine provinces.

READ MORE: EXPLAINER: Here’s a rundown of the elections timetable ahead of voting day

The first democratic municipal elections took place in 1995 and 1996, while the first municipal elections run by the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) took place in 2000.

The previous municipal elections were held in 2016.

These elections are held two years after the national and provincial elections

Who votes for what?

In South Africa most people vote for a party as well as a ward councillor to represent their interests at local level.

Also keep in mind that in some very small local councils with very few councillors, there may be no wards and only a local council PR vote and district council PR vote.

Metro council voters:           

  • One PR vote for a party contesting the metro council
  • One ward vote for an individual candidate contesting the ward

Local council voters:           

  • One PR vote for a party contesting the council
  • One ward vote for an individual candidate contesting the ward
  • One PR vote for district council

District management area voters

  • One PR vote for DMA representatives to district council
  • One PR vote parties contesting the district council