Local Government Elections 2016 Preparations and Readiness, with Deputy Minister

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Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs

12 April 2016
Chairperson: Mr M Mohapi (ANC, Free State)
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Meeting Summary

This was a joint meeting of the Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and the Select Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs in which the Municipal Demarcation Board, the South African Local Government Association and the Department of Cooperative Governance (DCoG) presented on preparations and readiness for 2016 Local Government Elections.

The Deputy Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs stated that the Electoral Court’s decision is going to the Constitutional Court because of the right of citizens to vote, and the government does must not have an effect of disenfranchising citizens, particularly those citizens that were disenfranchised in the past. Even if one has been registered in one’s current ward for more than ten years, this does not necessarily mean that one’s address is on the voters’ roll. With reference to himself, he has been living in Tshwane for 20 years since 1998, and he has been voting there for 20 years, happily under the impression that the IEC had his address on the voters’ roll, until he had received an sms from the IEC the previous weekend to say that the IEC does not have his address. The Deputy Minister said that his personal experience really illustrates the dilemma in the country, as the IEC does not have individual addresses on the voters’ roll but individuals are not aware of this. If the IEC does not have people’s addresses it cannot contact them to inform them of important things, such as when the IEC is intending to take them off the voters’ roll. And this is what the IEC seeks, clarity on how to contact people, and DCoG supports the IEC in that quest. It was a pity that the IEC was not at the meeting as they could have made this clear to the Committee.

The Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB) said it does not decide on the criteria used for demarcation of wards. The norm in ward demarcations is that the number of registered voters is used to determine wards. The norm of using the number of registered voters is paramount and takes precedence over the needs and concerns of individuals, communities and organisations. Ward demarcation is not a participatory process whereas it should be part of the democratic processes in this country. However, the MDB had insufficient resources for this.

Some of the demarcation concerns and community protest action is linked to communities that are dissatisfied with provincial boundaries. In some cases people were just not happy with the outer boundary process. The MDB knows that it should have more engagement with the public however it does not have the necessary resources to make this possible, such as administrative support, which therefore prevents engagement with the public, including stakeholder engagement. The challenges that the Committee needs to note concerned litigation. On the Democratic Alliance case, part two still needs to be heard and the date for that hearing has not yet been determined. The Vuwani Traditional Leaders case hearing is set down for 21 and 22 April 2016.

An ANC MP stated that as a country we are faced with another special colonization of ourselves and within ourselves as citizens when our needs are not considered when ward demarcations are done. She said that given South Africa’s history, the country cannot afford to exploit the poor masses, and yet this is exactly what is happening in ward demarcations.

The Committee needed to gain clarity on is the potential ability of the people to exercise their democratic rights, and the Committee hopes that the public will be included in the processes and policies of the MDB in the future. The Committee also wanted the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to have been at the meeting but unfortunately they had not attended the meeting. The Chairperson said that the Committee should convene a meeting with the IEC to engage with them on their perspective on preparations and readiness for the 2016 Local Government Elections.

Meeting report

Department of Cooperative Governance preparations / readiness for 2016 local government elections
Mr Kevin Naidoo, Executive Manager of DCoG, said that DCoG is monitoring at a national level the progress made towards readiness and preparations for the 2016 local government elections. His presentation considered the role and responsibilities of the Minister which include: determining the formula for the number of councillors; calling and setting a date for the elections; and overseeing preparations for the elections.

On the role of the Minister, in terms of Section 20 of the Municipal Structures Act, the number of councillors is finalised in accordance with a formula determined by the Minister in the Government Gazette, based on the number of registered voters. Slide 4 of the presentation listed the formulas used, noting that in the 4th Term the formula was changed.

Slide 13 of his presentation showed a map of areas affected by amalgamation of municipalities in 2016, the areas that are shaded a dark colour are those that are affected.

The role of the provinces in overseeing preparation for the elections, in terms of Section 12 of the Structures Act, is for the Members of the Executive Council (MEC) to establish municipalities. The MEC for Local Government in a province must establish a municipality in each municipal area which the MDB demarcates in the province (by Notice in the Provincial Gazette). In terms of Section 14(5) of the Structures Act, provinces must engage in regulation of effects of establishment on existing municipalities. The MEC for Local Government may make provision for transitional measures to facilitate the disestablishment of an existing municipality and the establishment of a new municipality but the MEC must consult the existing municipality before publishing the Notice.

The Municipal Demarcation Transition Committee (MDTC) has met twice so far, in October last year and January this year. It is comprised of the following departments: provinces; National Treasury; other sector departments; SALGA; MDB; IEC; and labour (IMATU and SAMWU). Progress reports are submitted by all provinces, sector departments; SALGA; MDB and the IEC.

Regarding general observations from the provinces in the MDTC, feedback from stakeholders shows that steady progress has been made in all areas relating to transition. However, DCoG also picked up that sector departments were not attending meetings and their attendance at meetings needs to improve and greater participation is needed from traditional leaders. Section 12 Notices are being drafted and refined that detail:
- Category and type of municipality
- Boundaries of the municipal area
- Name of the municipality
- Number of wards and number of councillors
- Councillors that have been designated as full-time
- Funding remains a challenge however DCoG have been heartened by the commitment to ensure that all deliverables are timeously finalised.

In respect of KZN, DCoG has now published a revised Section 14(5) Notice. Archiving of documents was finalised by 31 March 2016. The MDTC is engaging with Treasury to determine the municipal Standard Chart of Accountants (mSCOA) compliance with IT systems. Rationalisation of valuation rolls and financial systems have been commenced with. Asset registers have been compiled in terms of Generally Recognised Accounting Practice (GRAP) requirements. Job descriptions have also been finalised.

Slides 23 to 30 of his presentation provided a provincial overview for each province. This is to be read with the document that outlines progress made in the various transition matters for each province. In KZN, there were mostly matters relating to underperforming task teams; by-laws and policies having been rationalised and are awaiting approval from the Change Management Committees (CMC); engaging with Treasury to determine compliance with IT systems; rationalization of valuation rolls and financial systems having been commenced with; organograms for the new municipalities were finalised in 2013; and job descriptions will also be drafted for the posts on the organograms. He asked Members to peruse the accompanying document.

Regarding National Treasury’s involvement in the MDTC, Treasury has revised the budget allocations of the affected municipalities. The local government equitable share (LGES) formula has been updated and allocations recalculated to take into account the new municipalities. Municipalities are guaranteed to still receive at least 95% of their indicative allocations for 2016/17. A Municipal Demarcation Transition Grant of R408 million was made available for the 2016/17 and 2017/18 (R297 million and R111 million, respectively).

Regarding organised labour’s involvement in the MDTC, concerning SAMWU, the transition process must be properly managed, or else it could pose challenges in municipalities. SAMWU also undertook to encourage its municipal and provincial structures to attend and participate in the transition processes. IMATU indicated to DCoG that its focus will be on HR matters, and more so on placement and migration. The South African Local Government Association (SALGA) continues to support all the affected municipalities in their transition processes.

In light of the Electoral Court decision of 23 February 2016, on 25 February 2016, a sub-committee was established to explore options and develop proposals to assign addresses to households without formal addresses. The Sub-committee that was established consists of the following departments or institutions to develop proposals on the assignment of addresses: Telecommunications and Postal Services; Human Settlements, Home Affairs; Public Service and Administration; Departments of Science and Technology; Water and Sanitation;  Rural Development and Land Reform; Social Development; IEC; ESKOM; SALGA; Stats SA; South African Post Office and Telkom. This Sub-committee is lead by Stats SA and the SA Post Office.

Municipal Demarcation Board: Major redeterminations of municipal boundaries
Ms Jane Thupana, MDB chairperson, noted that the MDB is an independent constitutional body (Section 155 of the Constitution) and performs its functions in terms of the Constitution, the Municipal Demarcation Act and the Municipal Structures Act. The key fundamentals in the MDB’s mandate are to reverse the apartheid geography through ward delimitations; contribute to spatial transformation and spatial justice for all; advance integration of communities; deepen democracy through crafting of electoral wards; and to enable gradual realization of sustainable and developmental local government.

The following Board members were appointed by the President and took office on 20 February 2014: Ms Jane Thupana (Chairperson); Mr Ashraf Adam (Deputy Chairperson); Prof Isabel Konyn; Ms Shivon Wiggins; Ms Mmatsie Mooki; Ms Nompumelelo Mpofu; Mr Maruping Wildebees; Mr Lebina Tsotetsi and Mr Simphiwe Dzengwa. Of the nine board members, it is only the chairperson that is fulltime.

Regarding the Section 22 re-determination and determination of municipal boundaries, for the first time since the MDB was established, Section 22(2) was invoked by the Minister in 2015. The MDB did receive proposals in line with Section 22(2). These were considered in terms of the Back to Basics programme to determine whether they are sustainable and viable. Of the 34 proposals that were received by the MDB, 13 were finally approved.

Slides 15 and 16 of her presentation showed the re-determinations and determinations of municipal boundary projects by province. Starting with the Eastern Cape, three amalgamations took place. In KwaZulu-Natal there was no amalgamation but four municipalities moved voting districts. In the Free State, there was one amalgamation. In Limpopo there were two amalgamations and two disestablishments. In the North West, Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape, there was one amalgamation case each.

On the reduction in the number of municipalities since the 2006 local government elections, in 2016, outer boundaries were re-determined, which lead to a reduction in the number of municipalities to 267. After considering proposals from the previous year, this was further reduced to 257 municipalities. So the number of municipalities that will take effect in the 2016 local government elections will be 257.

Slide 19 showed the ward delimitation status as at December 2015.

The process of ward delimitation is guided by the law and the law only provides 14 days between the announcement and finalisation of ward delimitations, so objections from the public need to be received by the MDB within 14 days. The MDB tries to provide engagement with the public beyond what the law provides, starting with stakeholder engagement, where the public is given an outline of the criteria that can be applied before the MDB will delimit wards. After concluding the two processes, the MDB received several requests including queries, complaints and clarifications about the finalised municipality and ward boundaries. Even after the wards were published the public was given opportunities to make submissions to the MDB. Those submissions that were found to be compliant with the criteria, for example the proposal will not end up making adjacent wards non-compliant or illegal, were considered to see how they were formulated. These proposals could either have been withdrawn or adopted and taken on board if the proposal suggested by the public was viable. The demarcated wards were subsequently published. However, there remained a number of people who made submissions to the MDB, related to different aspects, such as requests for clarifications. These submissions happened outside of the legal process as the MDB had already determined the final ward boundaries and handed them over to the IEC. The MDB continued to engage those communities, explaining exactly what had happened and meetings that had taken place. Although there had been national advertising campaigns to try and popularise these meetings and tell the public when they would be taking place, some stakeholders had missed these meetings. Getting assistance from municipalities, the MDB goes to great lengths to explain its processes to the public. In some instances the protests and complaints were driven by misinformation. She gave an example where a community believed that a particular ward boundary cut through a hostel, so that one wing of the hostel was in one ward, and the other wing of the hostel was in another ward. However, this was not the case and the community was misinformed.

Some of the demarcation concerns and community protest action is linked to communities that are dissatisfied with provincial boundaries. In some cases people were just not happy with the outer boundary process. These people have sent enquiries or other submissions to the Board, either through letters or through engagement with the Board.

The challenges that the Committee needed to note concerned litigation. Regarding the Democratic Alliance case, part two thereof still needs to be heard and the date for that hearing has not yet been determined. The Vuwani Traditional Leaders case hearing is set down for 21 and 22 April 2016. She said that the MDB did not want to try and pre-empt the ruling that will be found in the Vuwani case as it did not know what the outcome of this trial might be, and it would affect demarcations in that area.   

South African Local Government Association (SALGA) presentation
Mr Xolile George, SALGA Chief Executive Officer, said that on 20 November 2015, the SALGA National Executive Committee (NEC) approved the Framework for the Transition to guide municipalities through the transition during the local government elections.

SALGA’s work concerns the transition from the present to the new local councils after elections take place and it speaks to three inter-related aspects: pre-election; during the elections; and post-election. All of these components will form part of the work that SALGA will launch next month, on 19 and 20 May.

The framework for the transition consists of three related components that aim to manage the transition of current councillors to new councillors. The first component is councillor welfare, support and capacitation (which includes the councillor induction programme (CIP) which begins immediately after the election results have been announced); and a social plan for councillors. The second component is guidance on specific governance aspects to be addressed before, during and after elections. So specific tasks have been mapped out for after the elections results are released, detailing what then needs to happen. The third component is a communication plan.

As stated, the first component includes a councillor induction programme. Councillor capacitation will happen through SALGA’s Center for Leadership and Governance. This will include existing councillors that have already been through the system but SALGA is introducing a new programme going forward for the 2016 elections.

Key topics which are to be covered during the five day CIP contact time happen according to a nine point module programme, the topics of which are as follows:
- theoretical background and legislative and policy framework
- municipal finance management,
- overview of municipal governance in South Africa
- municipal procedures and protocols
- being a leader is one of the critical topics,
- municipal strategic planning
- municipal performance and accountability
- stakeholder framework
- ethical framework, which is a module that SALGA has not had before. This has been included to ensure that new councillors coming in will be infused with a sense of their ethical responsibility during their time as a councillor and to ensure that they can implement the Back to Basics Plan One.

Continuing professional development (CPD) programmes/seminars will also be conducted. These are anticipated to be a full learning pathway that includes learning for councillors entering the pathway, and reflecting for those councillors that have already served their time as councillors. And beyond portfolio based training, SALGA we will be able to take them through a very detailed programme that goes beyond three months and forms part of the recognition of their learning going forward into their future.

SALGA has a social plan to manage the welfare of councillors and make sure that they are able to be empowered. The social plan focuses on finance management, enterprise development and skills development. SALGA has programmes created to help councillors entering the market after their time as a councillor has come to an end. SALGA also looked into how councillors can be assisted in terms of investment management solutions and so forth.

In terms of governance support, a number of documents and guidelines have been developed to support municipalities with governance aspects, prior, during and after the elections and in particular the aspects identified in the timeline developed. SALGA have prepared quite a number of guidelines that will be circulated to municipalities that will provide guidance. These documents will provide assistance to outgoing executive councillors, the administration as well as incoming executive councillors. These documents were listed in the presentation. SALGA has prepared draft agendas for meetings with new councillors on all those matters that new councillors need to be informed about. When it comes to capacitating councillors, during the transition period, draft agendas for the first sitting of council will be drawn up by SALGA.

Governance activities prior to the elections include
- The appointment, and terms of reference for Municipal Election Officers
- Continued meetings of governance structures during the election period and the extent of delegation powers to heads of administration during the transition
- Funding of municipal activities related to elections, so that if they have to fund anything it is within the prescribed guidelines to make sure that nobody veers off from the established guidelines.
- Guidelines for a report on strategic issues to bring to the attention of the newly elected political office bearers.
- The role of the Municipal Manager during the transition.
- The Rules of Order to be adopted by municipalities prior to the election.

The Chairperson thanked all the presenters for their contributions and asked members to keep their questions as short as possible and to not give any ‘speeches’ when asking questions.

Mr N Khubisa (NFP) said that SALGA empowers councillors to go on and find further work and jobs after their time as councillors has ended, but he was interested to find out how SALGA assists them to impact their communities after their term as councillor has ended, because he believes that councillors must be able to continue impacting their community after their term has ended.

He noted that there had been submissions from various individuals and committees regarding demarcations and he asked Ms Thupana if all of the submissions had been attended to, and what the outcomes of these submissions were.

He wanted to know if after the MDB has submitted its report to the IEC, is that the end of their engagement with the IEC, as there are perennial issues that might come up from time to time, and does the MDB engage with the IEC on these issues?

Mr M Khawula (IFP, KZN) said that DCoG had stated in its presentation that there are no major challenges in KZN and that all is going well in the province, but he could not see how this was possible unless it is a KZN that he did not know, because the KZN that he knows is facing many challenges. He therefore does not agree with DCoG in this regard. He requested that they inform the Committee of what the real challenges are in KZN, as the Committee will never be able to play its oversight role if it is not aware of challenges.

Mr Khawula said that the MDB had indicated in its presentation that the Board Chairperson is the only board member that is fulltime out of the nine board members. He asked if he would be right to conclude that the reason why there are perpetual demarcation challenges is because there is only one fulltime member on the Board. He asked if this was a workable ideal and one that the Committee can vote for. He asked if the MDB can perform optimally, and to the nation’s expectation, when there is only one full time member on the Board.

Ms T Wana (ANC, Eastern Cape) said that she appreciated the presentations that had been given. She asked why the public were not being included in the decisions of ward demarcation as they are affected by it. She said that one thing that she does not understand, is why demarcation might move people from one ward to another, when the new ward that they are moved to has no service delivery. She asked what type of criteria and specifications MDB uses when it takes two towns and amalgamates them and turns them into one town. She asked if they considered the population of those areas before they did so, because in the area that she is from, the MDB did not seem to consider the population. Due to this, she is sure that as a country we are faced with another special colonization of ourselves and within ourselves. She said that given South Africa’s history, the country cannot afford to exploit the poor masses, and yet this is exactly what is happening.

Ms B Engelbrecht (DA, Gauteng) asked why the process of demarcations and delimitations had taken so long in Gauteng.

Mr K Mileham (DA) said that slide 18 of DCoG’s presentation concerned finance, but there is no mention of the amalgamation of budgets on this slide, and he could not see anything in its report about this. He therefore wanted to know what happens to the individual budgets of municipalities that are amalgamated.

On the amalgamation process, he referred to the document which detailed major redeterminations of municipal boundaries finalised by the MDB and progress made in respect of various transition matters. On page one it states that the proposed new name for the Kwa Sani and Ingwe municipalities will be the Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma Local Municipality. He said that this was the first time that he had come across an instance in which a municipality is being named after a serving politician, and he would like feedback on that as it seems to be a decision which will create tensions and be divisive for people in that community.

On the SALGA social plan for councillors, he asked for some input as to the cost of this plan.

The communications plan that SALGA had outlined states that the purpose of the plan is to ensure positive communication regarding local government, to celebrate 15 years of democratic local government and to set a positive tone for the 2016 elections. He is concerned that SALGA is entering into a political arena here, as it is highlighting only one side of the story, the successes of local government, but is silent on the failures of local government. If South Africa is a free democratic society, SALGA should allow the political parties to be trumpeting the successes of local government, rather than doing it on their behalf.

A committee member asked if there is any way of ensuring that people who come from rural areas are not disadvantaged if a voters’ roll is established that asks for addresses, because if such a voters’ roll is implemented, it is only those that already benefit from the system who are going to continue to benefit, as these people have registered addresses.

Mr M Mapulane (ANC) asked for comment from the Municipal Demarcation Board on the situation in Vuwani in Limpopo. Given the benefit of hindsight, he asked if MDB should have done things differently.

In the last elections there was a turnout of about 10% to 15% of the population of a local municipality going to the polls to vote for local government. Given the turnout over the registration weekend, the possibility is high that turnout during these elections will be very insignificant. He wanted the Minister and the MDB Chairperson to comment on how they are going to try and address that situation.

Mr Andries Nel, Deputy Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, responded that everything that COGTA is building, and the system that is being developed is quite unique to South Africa as it is based on our Constitution. Regardless of where one might travel on the continent or in the world, our system is unique and has been developed against the backdrop of huge historical odds.

When he had been looking at the slide in the MDB’s presentation on the number of municipalities, and how they have reduced since 2006, and indeed this year already have reduced by 10 municipalities, he was struck by the evolution of the system. The system as we know it today started in 1994. In the lead up to the 2006 local government elections, the number of local municipalities stood at 283 and the number of registered voters had gone up to 20 million. The graphics on the slide showed the reduction in the number of districts over the years and over time DCoG has been continuing the evolution of the system of local government. The number of municipalities is determined in ways that are meant to make the operating of each municipality most efficient and allow it to provide the best possible services to its ward. The country is going into the 2016 local government elections with more than 25 million voters.

The question of demarcation is an inherently complex and often an emotional one and considering the country’s history, these issues are never going to be easy to deal with. The criteria for demarcations are set out in the law, and he believes that these are correct and progressive criteria. However, they are not always easy to implement, as every individual or organisation who makes a submission to the MDB has a range of vested interests which creates divisions and tensions in communities and the MDB tries to minimise these divisions and tensions, rather than play them out.

Going into the 2016 Local Government Elections, DCoG considered the formula for determining the number of councillors and spent a lot of time thinking very carefully and consulting very widely on this formula, exactly because it wanted to keep the increase in the number of councillors to a minimum, to minimise the fiscal impact of the very sharp increase in the number of councillors. It also wanted to keep the extent of change of ward demarcations to a minimum.

On the one hand demarcation is a political exercise as it is where people vote for their representative. And in order for our elections to be free and fair, the local government elections need to take into account the population realities on the ground, with regard to the people that reside in a particular area. On the other hand, the ward is a primary developmental unit of our society, and development does not happen neatly.

He said that while the magnitude of the Board’s task is great, this does not necessarily mean that the Board needs to take the form of more fulltime members. He was sure that members were well acquainted with government departments in which the fulltime board members clash with the fulltime staff, which caused all manner of challenges.

On the question of the outer demarcations, again, this is not an easy issue. Throughout the country there are municipalities that at the moment are not performing as they should be. The cause of those challenges is many-fold, for example they may have historical baggage that they are carrying or they may be serving vast areas. The municipalities that were not performing as DCoG wanted them to perform were investigated to see if DCoG could make a difference to these municipalities’ performance in some way. The results of these investigations showed that amalgamation could possibly make a difference. The process for amalgamations that has been developed is the product of a thorough grappling with the criteria and processes and DCoG is confident that it will make a difference to their performance. But DCoG also recognises that it is not an easy process. The continued support that these municipalities get will also make a difference in their ability to serve people.
He said that the MDB might be best placed to comment on questions regarding specific municipalities and he therefore left those questions for the MDB to answer. The Electoral Court’s decision is going to the Constitutional Court because of the right of citizens to vote, and whatever the government does, must not have an effect of disenfranchising citizens, particularly those citizens that were disenfranchised in the past.

Deputy Minister Nel had asked Mr Naidoo to shine some light on the addresses. He said that there was contestation to the proposal that people do not need to supply addresses when registering to vote in the local government elections because people were saying that there are individuals who do not reside in a particular area who are going to vote in that area for political reasons.

He said that the challenge is not so much the presence or absence of addresses, as all dwellings have some kind of identification that can be used as an address, but rather that everyone who lives in particular areas have not provided an address.

DCoG had worked with Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) to try and determine the number of people living in certain wards, and what the Stats SA team found is that there has been an explosion of people who live in the backyard of properties. These people do not have separate addresses to the people living in the main house on the property and they should not have separate addresses, as anyone who lives on the same property should have the same address. People that live in the backyards of properties should have the same address as the people living in the main house on the property. However, whether people living in the backyard have ever used those addresses is never discussed, but he was aware that the IEC would be having a media briefing later that day.

What also became clear in Stats SA’s results is that there is a plethora of informal settlements in the country. Informal settlements by definition are areas that are not proclaimed and therefore, in terms of legal and formal documentation, there is no evidence that these areas even exist, albeit that they are in the same urban space as proclaimed areas. As informal settlements have not been formally proclaimed, people who live in these areas will not have addresses. In respect of that, the South African Post Office has started assigning what is called an identifier, which is a unique number assigned to every dwelling unit and is linked to the head of the household. It is called an identifier and not an address because an address is effectively formalised whereas an identifier is not. These identifiers are being used not only for the purposes of this election but also for a whole range of other government purposes. DCoG believes that these identifiers will enable the IEC to determine whether the people who are registering to vote are in fact ordinarily residents in the voting districts where they intend to cast their vote. The plan is to roll out the designation of identifiers on a national scale as it is not only dwellings in rural areas that do not have addresses. The identifiers are geolocated which means that they are loaded onto a system and through the use of GPS one will be able to locate them on the internet.

Mr George, SALGA, said that he would focus on only two of the questions, the first of which was about KwaZulu-Natal. The issue with KZN is that it started with the transitional measures (measures that are defined on slide 17 of SALGA’s presentation) earlier than the other provinces.

On the question of the budget for amalgamated municipalities, SALGA has a particular process that was put in place to determine what happens to the budget when municipalities are amalgamated. After the local government elections on 3 August 2016, each individual municipality will draw up a draft budget for the amalgamated municipality and they will jointly have to adopt one of these draft budgets. When the new council comes into operation it will look at the two drafts drawn up and one will be adopted, jointly, by the two combined municipalities. All of these particular processes have been outlined.

Ms Thupana, MDB, said that following the finalisation of the wards, some people questioned the new ward demarcations, saying, “why are you giving us this many wards when we had asked for a different number of wards?”. She said that this shows that people lack an understanding of the fact that the MDB does not determine the number of wards, it simply delimits wards. They also complained that after processes of demarcation had been concluded, that they were now in a different ward, saying for example, “We were in ward five and we want to remain in ward five”. There were quite a number of complaints of this nature that were received by the MDB. But the MDB simply implements the criteria that it is provided with, and these criteria are governed by the number of registered voters in each ward, which has to be the same, or nearly the same, in each ward. She often uses the city of Johannesburg as an example. Johannesburg had 100 wards and after the criteria for demarcation were applied, it was determined that Johannesburg needed an additional five wards. In that instance the physical space in that area does not change, but the MDB needs to add five new additional wards within the same space, as it cannot tamper with the boundaries of the existing wards.

In terms of the law, previously, wards had nothing to do with planning and service delivery. However, that is changing and what is happening now is that wards are being used for planning and service delivery and this sometimes means that the ward boundaries have to change. However, this is an issue when people are waiting for government housing as they start off in one ward and then they get designated to another ward and then say to the MDB that they no longer know which ward they are in. This was an issue that was raised in some of the proposals that the MDB received from the public and it is a consideration of the MDB when it delimits wards.

Some of the demarcation issues are political and the closer the wards are finalised to an election the more political the issues become, because when demarcations are done close to elections, unfortunately, there are people who will complain and say that by the manner in which this ward is configured, my constituency will not win, and that is not a legitimate consideration for the Board. They will say things like, “the ward shouldn’t include a particular hostel, because it will mess up my election campaign” or “it looks like you are giving away a ward to the Democratic Alliance”. But this is not a consideration for the MDB as the MDB is using particular criteria. Thus some of the public’s issues are political. Challenges that erupted during voter registration in March are issues related to demarcation. The MDB recognised that there is a need for it to engage with the public and it is working closely with the IEC to try and make this happen.

Ms Thupana said the MDB agrees that it should have more engagement with the public. However it does not have the necessary resources to make this possible, such as administrative support, which therefore prevents engagement with the public, including stakeholder engagement. Engagement ends at the point where the MDB determines boundaries. The only way that the public can engage with the MDB is to contact its office in Centurion to raise demarcation concerns. The lack of a national footprint denies the Board the ability to engage with the public on an ongoing basis and ultimately participate meaningfully with them. She said that there should be offices in provinces, situated in the areas where it can see that its support is necessary. She also said that the MDB should build a very strong internal unit that is made of technical people, as the core of the Board’s mandate is carried out in an executive manner. And this is because the final determinations on boundaries cannot be delegated to the administrators as these are functions of the Board. So the MDB needs to be capacitated in order to have more proper engagement with the public. She said that the MDB shares this and flags this when engaging with National Treasury however it does understand the economic and physical climate of the country and that it is difficult for Treasury to provide the MDB with more money.

On the criteria for demarcation and how that affects residents and how people get moved from one ward to another, the MDB does not decide on the criteria used for demarcation of wards. These criteria have already been decided upon and she emphasised that these criteria are not decided by the MDB. These criteria are used to decide how wards will be demarcated. She emphasised that the norms for demarcation are driven by the number of registered voters in an area. But the public out there do not understand why the number of registered voters is being used as a norm. The norm intends to balance out the volume of responsibility amongst councillors. However, councillors are still not treated equitably and disparities are created by this system because in areas where people are not registered as voters, councillors end up with wards that have many more residents than councillors from wards in which residents are registered voters. This means that some councillors are working in wards with a much bigger population than others, and this compromises their ability to perform as well as councillors in spread-out wards with smaller populations. This also impacts on democracy as the space or the distance between the public and their representative becomes very wide. The Minister uses the number of registered voters in an area to determine the number of councillors for an area.

Ms Thupana said a question was asked about the Gauteng programme and why it is taking so long to be finalised. Gauteng has had its own issues that made the Gauteng programme different to the other provinces. One of these was the litigation that held in abeyance certain processes, such as the ward delimitation process. This could only be started after certain engagements had taken place and an out of court settlement was reached. This affected municipalities in the area because ward delimitation processes had to be delayed. The process also has to include considering submissions and views from the public. Some of the issues are linked to wards in Gauteng being largely metros and the areas being so huge and dynamic that the MDB needs more time than what it would take to engage in other areas. One of the things that the MDB learned from the Gauteng processes is that stakeholders need to be allowed more time to submit proposals and there should be more time for engagements with them. The MDB also wishes that this process had been concluded much earlier.

She had mentioned in her presentation that the MDB handed over to the IEC in December, but actually the handing over had been handled before that and had mostly been concluded by that stage. When it handed over to the IEC on 15 December, it was just the last batch that was being handed over to the IEC, as the first handing over had already happened. So the IEC has been working and has not been delayed in its work.

The legal framework that structures the Board, such as the Municipal Demarcation Act, determines that the Board act and conduct itself without fear, favour or prejudice. However, this is not possible when the MDB is fearful of the public’s reactions to demarcations, and some of the fears relate to areas where there is violence or where there are threats of violence. Some areas have not experienced violence but there are quite a number of areas where there have been threats of violence.

Mr Thabo Manyoni, SALGA chairperson, replied on whether it is within SALGA’s mandate to provide welfare and support programmes for ward councillors, saying that it is within SALGA’s mandate.

He said that the communication programme would include ordinary South Africans giving testimonials of their experience of their local government.

Mr George replied about councillors being empowered to impact their communities after their time as a councillor has ended. There will be programmes around that, and there will be an ongoing assessment of these programmes and how well they are operating. So SALGA’s programmes do not solely focus on the councillors own well being, but also incorporate their responsibilities to empower communities and to play an important role after their time in office.

The Chairperson noted SALGA had mentioned that it had invested in a pool of councillors. He asked if the MDB was still going to use those councillors it had trained in the training of new councillors. His second question concerned circular 78, which deals mainly with the transition process. Given that there are challenges, especially around budget processes, what has SALGA done to ensure that the stipulations in circular 78 (which focus on local government elections, the demarcation process and the changes to the local government grant allocation) are adhered to?

He said that DCoG had highlighted that of all the Section 22 submissions to the MDB, only 13 were approved. He asked what indication they had for why those that were not approved were approved, particularly the reasons for their failure needed to be considered. Over the registration weekends, many people were unable to have their addresses recognised by the IEC. He asked DCoG to respond to this. If it is not able to respond now, it would be given an opportunity in the future to respond.

The Chairperson commented that the MDB seemed to be more reactive than proactive and hence one finds that most of the challenges they are currently facing are mainly as a response to current circumstances and the MDB’s response is reactive. He asked what MDB’s plans are to ensure that it engages with municipalities continuously, to be more proactive in its actions. On demarcation, the MDB had indicated that it is an independent process that does not include the public, and that it is based on norms and criteria. The Chairperson asked if it is really an effective way to do demarcations. On amending legislation, the MDB often adopts a desktop approach to research on legislation. He asked if that approach was really working, and if not, what kind of research should be done instead.

Ms B Engelbrecht (DA, Gauteng) asked for confirmation on what was said regarding addresses that have disappeared, because this is a huge crisis for residents of Tshwane.

Mr George confirmed that previous councillors trained by SALGA are being used to help train new councillors and that this is shown in the reflecting and sharing aspects of the CPD programme. This allows existing councillors to share the experiences that they have had in their previous and current positions, or in any other role that they have played. New councillors therefore learn from present councillors and people that have been ‘on the ground’, who have played that role and have been former public representatives.

The Chairperson said that in her presentation Ms Thupana had mentioned that some of the demarcation concerns and community protests actions were as a result of misinformation, and that in some instances this is misinformation that has been purposefully spread. He asked what the MDB is doing to ensure that there is no abuse of misinformation, which in some instances has been deliberately spread.

Ms Thupana replied that if the MDB was able to engage in public communication and public dialogue it would be more in touch with the public and issues affecting them, and this would allow it to intervene before protests erupted. If it had local offices this would allow it to understand the simmering issues before they erupt into violence.

One of the proposals has been to question the frequency of demarcation. A lot of activities should happen out of season, during that period when the MDB is not doing demarcations and is therefore able to carry out these other activities. For example, assessment should be taking place out of season as the MDB will not be able to conduct analysis immediately after August, because municipalities will still be settling as new councillors would have just come in at that stage. Public dialogue should also happen out of season. National dialogue or colloquia should also be happening out of season as that is a period when key players in local government can engage with Parliament, research institutions, stakeholders, NGOs, and so on. That is a period when the MDB would be engaged on spatial issues.

On boundary issues, the MDB does not determine ward boundaries, so when people ask the MDB, “why do we have 20 wards and not 22 like we asked”, this is because of a lack of education and understanding about the functioning of the MDB.

Regarding the question of the norms for demarcation, she said that the MDB agrees with the public on this. It is not a participatory process whereas it should be, as part of the democracy in this country. This should be a participative process but unless one engages with the public extensively when determining these norms, it never will be. The MDB tries as far as possible not to split communities, but if the norm determines that the municipal boundary or the ward boundary needs to cut through a community, the MDB has to adhere to the norm. Wards are determined according to the number of registered voters in an area, and when the population has grown in an area and there are new registered voters, the ward needs to be shifted. So even though ward demarcation might have happened in an area only five years ago, five years later one would expect that the population has grown, and therefore wards need to be determined again, five years later.

The Chairperson asked if it is effective.

Ms Thupana answered that it is not effective as the norm of using the number of registered voters is paramount and takes precedence over the needs and concerns of individuals, communities and organisations.

The Chairperson said that the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs sits on the Municipal Demarcation Decision Committee, and the public have expressed a desire to engage with MDB because they feel that their issues are not dealt with. If the MDB could meet with the public it could make sure which issues were most important to people that reside in a specific area, for example, do they want sanitation first or sports facilities first. This would allow the residents in a particular area to influence how money is spent in that area. He asked what DCoG is doing to ensure the participation of communities, because non-participation has a bearing on individuals and communities.

Deputy Minister Nel replied that members will remember that in the first democratic elections in 1994, everyone stood in the long queues at voting stations. There was no voters’ roll for those elections and people took whatever form of identification they had with them to go and vote. There was no requirement for addresses in those elections. There were 18 million people that voted in those elections and no addresses were captured, and they were not required to be captured. One also needs to remember that the requirement of addresses applies to local government elections and not national elections.

The important thing is that the majority of the 7.9 million registered voters who have no address behind their name are people who legitimately reside in the area in which they have registered. The majority are not people who have temporarily moved into the area simply to vote in the local government elections. Out of all the people who have registered, a total of 45% have no addresses behind their name.

Even if one has been registered in their current ward for more than ten years, this does not necessarily mean that their addresses are on the voters’ roll. He said that with reference to himself, he has been living in Tshwane for 20 years now, since 1998, and he has been voting there for 20 years, happily under the impression that the IEC had his address on the voters’ roll, until he had received an sms from the IEC the previous weekend to say that the IEC do not have his address.

He had downloaded a really useful and helpful app from the IEC that tells one a lot of interesting things about elections, and it also tells you if you are on the voters’ roll. Using this app he had found out that he was registered, but he was actually registered in the wrong voting district. So even though he had been voting in the right ward he should actually have been registered in another voting district. He asked how many of the people present at the meeting would have said immediately before the meeting that their address is on the voters’ roll. His personal experience really illustrates the dilemma in the country, as the IEC do not have addresses of individuals on the voters’ roll but individuals are not aware of this. And if the IEC does not have people’s addresses it cannot contact them to inform them of important matters, such as when the IEC is intending to take them off the voters’ roll. And this is what the IEC seeks, clarity on how to contact people, and DCoG supports the IEC in that quest. He said that it was a pity that the IEC was not at the meeting as they could have made this clear to the Committee. Of those that visited voting stations over the two registration weekends this year, about 3 million of them were re-registering.

The Committee expressed its appreciation to COGTA, led by the Deputy Minister, SALGA and the Municipal Demarcation Board. The Committee needed to ensure the ability of the people to exercise their democratic rights, and the Committee hopes that the public will be included in the entities’ processes and policies in the future. The Committee would have liked the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) present to enlighten Members on its processes, but unfortunately they had not attended the meeting.

The Chairperson said the Committee would perhaps convene a meeting to engage with the IEC on their perspective concerning preparations and readiness for the elections. Invitations will be extended to relevant stakeholders for that meeting.

The meeting was adjourned.

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