Councils are elected every 5 years. The last election was held on 5 December 2000. There are 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 receiving 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 sub-councils 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 person receiving 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 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 based on the votes they got on the 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 several 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 5 seats on the district council and the ANC gained 60% of the seats on the local council, the ANC councillors should fill 3 of the 5 seats. The other 2 seats should be allocated to other parties according to their strength.
People who live in District Management Areas [game parks and other low population areas] get a PR ballot for the district council and a PR ballot for the DMA. They do not vote for local councils or wards.
The structures of the council
All councils have the following structures:
A mayor – who heads the council
An executive or mayoral committee – that meets regularly to coordinate the work of the council and make recommendations to the council.
A speaker [except in very small councils] – who chairs council meetings
Council meetings – where the full council meets to make decisions
Committees – where a few councillors meet to discuss specific issues
There are different types of mayors, executives and committees. The structures are set out in the Municipal Structures Act. In each province, the MEC for Local Government decides what types of structures will be used by different councils.