Delimitation of municipal wards in preparation of 2021 Municipal Elections: MDB briefing

Home Affairs

12 November 2019
Chairperson: Mr M Chabane (ANC) (Acting)
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Meeting Summary

The Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB) briefed the Committee on the delimitation of the municipal wards in preparation of the 2021 municipal elections. Every five years, it delimited wards in metropolitan and local municipalities for electoral purposes. The process ought to be concluded ideally not less than 10 months before the local government elections. Before commencing with the ward delimitation process, the MBD had completed a municipal outer boundary re-determination process in 2018, so it would not be conducting further re-determinations until after the 2021 elections. After consultation with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), the MDB delimited wards in each local and metropolitan municipality.

The Board described the status of the ward delimitation process, and the criteria and norms that were applied. Challenges included the population changes taking place through migration, the contrast between low density and high density population areas, communities’ ignorance of the delimination process, and the availability and location of a suitable place or places for voting.

Members felt that the norms that the MDB applied were not working, and were in inconsistent with the guiding principles or factors set out under section 25 of the Local Government Municipal Demarcation Act. They were of the view that the national population register should be used to cut or reconfigure wards, instead of using the voters’ roll. Consideration should be given to the number of people in a ward, not just those who were eligible to vote. In a particular area, there might be a huge number of people who were not registered to vote because of their individual reasons, or because they did not have the right to vote, such as foreign nationals, but everyone – voters and non-voters alike – had to be provided with municipal services. Services were not delivered to voters only. Members criticised the amalgamation of non-developed and developed communities, stating that these communities could not share the same socio-economic problems. They supported the amendment of relevant legislation in order to address the concerns raised by communities on the one hand, and to address challenges faced by MDB on the other.

Meeting report

Municipal Demarcation Board: Briefing

Mr Muthotho Sigidi, Chief Executive Officer (CEO): Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB), said that every five years, the MDB delimited wards in metropolitan and local municipalities for electoral purposes. The process ought to be concluded ideally not less than 10 months before the local government elections. Before commencing with the ward delimitation process, the MBD had completed a municipal outer boundary re-determination process in 2018, do it would not be conducting municipal boundary re-determinations until after the 2021 local government elections. The MDB, after consultation with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), delimited wards in each local and metropolitan municipality.

He briefed the Committee on the status of the ward delimitation process. The IEC provided the certified voters roll in March 2019. The Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) had published the formula for the number of councillors for different categories of municipalities on 5 July 2019. All MECs for local government had published the formula for their respective provinces after considering deviations, as provided in section 20(3)-(5) of the Local Government: Municipal Structures Act. The MDB determined the norms for all municipalities considering the 15% variation above or below the norm, and then configured the wards based on the norm for all municipalities.

The Committee was taken through the trends in the number of wards. In 2000, the number of registered voters was 18 476 516, and the total number of wards was 3 754. In 2021, a number of registered voters would be 26 749 806, and total number of wards 4 468. The DMB engaged with critical stakeholders with a view to raise awareness on ward delimitation.

Mr Sigidi highlighted the challenges the MDB was facing. There was a lack of understanding of demarcation and ward delimitation process by communities and political leaders, as evidenced by requests for the MDB to increase the number of councillors and wards. The increasing number of wards and changing ward boundaries disrupted municipal planning. Wards were seen as planning units for infrastructure and service delivery, so moving to a new ward was perceived as an interruption to a housing list. Communities preferred to be left in the same, or familiar, wards and did not like to be divided into different wards. Due to the large size of some settlements, it was not always possible to delimit them into a single ward – for example, Hillbrow suburb spilt over more than five wards in the City of Johannesburg. The sizes of wards varied in spatial size and extent in relation to the density of voters – this might mean that some councillors would have to travel longer distances than others to serve their constituencies. Areas with low voter density had bigger wards, and vice versa.

Mr Sigidi said that there were four principles guiding ward configuration. These were:

  • use voting districts as building blocks for the creation of wards;
  • these voting districts must create a contiguous ward;
  • MDB tried as far as possible not to split voting districts; and
  • wards boundaries created should be identifiable (geographical identifiable features such as roads, rivers, mountains, valleys, etc).

With regard to ward delimitation criteria, the number of registered voters in each ward may not vary by more than 15% from the norm. There was a need to avoid as far as possible the fragmentation of communities. The object was to enhance participatory democracy in local government. The availability and location of a suitable place, or places, for voting had to be taken into account in consideration of communication and accessibility; density population; topography and physical characteristics; and the number of voters that were entitled to vote within the required time-frame. Identifiable ward boundaries needed to be created.

Mr Sigidi explained how the MDB went about the configuration of wards, and said the average norm was equal to number of registered voters in the municipality, divided by a number of wards in the municipality. For example, if a municipality had 20 000 registered voters and 20 wards, it would be 20 000:20 = 1 000, implying that each ward would have 1 000 registered voters. Thus, a municipal ward may have any number of registered voters between 850 and 1150.

In all its engagements, the MDB encouraged leadership to engage in a public participation process to ensure that issues were resolved before communities/citizens raised them through other means. The success of the MDB’s work was dependent on collaboration with all stakeholders, including municipalities, political parties, civil organisations and members of the public. The MDB looked forward to the continued support and participation of the political parties, councillors, community-based organisations (CBOs), non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and communities during the ward delimitation process.


Mr J Maake (ANC) commented that if he was asked to write an exam on the presentation, he would fail. He got lost when it came to application of the norm. The application was confusing. He referred to slide 21, and commented that the configuration of the ward was not linked to rivers or mountains, but to registered voters. He understood that the MDB would like a population and geographical setting to see where a ward could be established. It seemed as if a ward could be established outside an existing community. In his village, Chiloane, the mountain and rivers should be used to create a ward. What had informed the configuration? He did not understand how the MDB could say they had a lot of registered voters there, and started creating wards. In his village, the name of a branch was Musa Chabane -- renamed after he passed away. That branch/municipality had been cut in such a way that his family was left outside of it. That was why he did not understand how the demarcation was being done. The norm and calculation could be right for the MDB, but it was painful that members of the family were left out of the district.  

The Chairperson asked whether Mr Maake was referring to a district, municipality or ward.

Mr Maake responded that he was referring to wards and municipalities or districts. 

Ms T Legwase (ANC), referring to slide 12, sought clarity on what had led to the decline of wards in the North West from 2016 to 2021; on how often the MDB was updated by the IEC; and on what measures were taken by the DMB to avoid disruptions in the voting processes.

Mr J McGluwa (ANC) commented that there ought to be a format of reporting to avoid confusion. He wanted to speak on behalf of the Speaker of Gauteng on issues about which the Chairperson had asked him to take note. In previous reports of MDB, there had been misalignment with the communities, and that had been the major problem that the Committee needed to address. The MDB had informed the Committee that they were not free in some of the provinces.

He asked Members to think what had happened to the communities in Matatiele, and referred them to JB Marks and the role the MDB had played in this community. One could find that there were wards which were not financially viable. However, JB Marks was economically viable. These two municipalities had been combined, and it had led to a total disaster. The demarcation usually resulted in financially non-viable municipalities. There might be a political input, and one would end up saying that it was politically motivated. However, the salient question was, who benefited from demarcation or reconfiguration? A political party could benefit in terms of votes, but JB Marks was a poor community. He appreciated that the communities were taken on board, but all municipalities were very poor. This issue should be discussed with the Minister.

There should be an analysis on the issue of demarcation and its impact on communities, as well as legal costs. The concerns raised by Mr Maake should be taken into account. More details were needed in so far as the demarcation rule was concerned. People were protesting and vandalising properties because they were unhappy with demarcation. Demarcation was being done, wards were created, but people were being left without service delivery. On the other hand, comrades were fighting each other because they were unhappy with the demarcation. He wanted the MDB to elaborate on the number of wards in North West. The MDB was allowed to create three more wards. When one looked at Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, one would see that it was not clear how wards were created.

Ms T Khanyile (DA) remarked that MDB raised awareness on ward limitation through engagement with stakeholders and such engagements had started in 2018. How many areas had been covered? She sought clarity on why KwaZulu-Natal had 901 wards and Gauteng had 529, but the population of Kwazulu-Natal was about 10 million, whereas Gauteng was about 12 million. What criteria were used when creating wards? When she had posed this question to the IEC, they had responded that the question should be directed to the MDB, as it was the proper structure to address the question.

She sought clarity on Ward 4 and Ward 8 in Lekwa Municipality. Ward 4 consisted on Meyervillle and Enyongeni. Meyerville was MDB’s development area, whereas Enyongeni was MDB’s informal settlement area. If one combined these two diverse communities, there would a diverse impact in terms of planning for both service delivery and budget purposes. If th municipality conducted a meeting on the Integrated Development Plan (IDP), they could not be in one hall. There was about seven kilometres from the TLC informal settlement to Meyerville. On the other hand, Ward 8 consisted of Cosmospark, Frorapark and Extension 8. The developed areas were Cosmospark and Frorapark, whereas Extension 8 had no proper infrastructure. There was no proper road, and people had no access to electricity. There had challenges in accessing service delivery. Did the MDB think that these poor wards would have a severe impact on service delivery and on budget delivery? How would they be prioritised over other people in the same ard?

Ms M Molekwa (ANC) asked to what extent the MDB had undertaken a process of participatory democracy, and how it determined that its objectives had been achieved. She asked this question because in certain municipalities, people were not advised that they had been taken from one ward to another until there was a by-election. This had severe implications, because people did not want to vote under a new ward. What criteria were taken into account for demarcation, how many objections were raised to this demarcation process, and how were these objections addressed? How had demarcation affected the turnout of voters?

Mr M Lekota (COPE) said that he felt sorry for the presenter, felt sorry for the Committee and felt sorry for himself. Why? It was because all members were trying to understand the question posed by Mr Maake, and that question had been very significant. Everyone had the same question in mind. Some people lived in rural areas, others lived in small towns. Some people lived in urban suburbs, others in townships such as Soweto. If one took the population of Soweto and divided them into wards of 5 000 people, how many wards would you get? If one went to the Northern Cape, one would find three people here, and 15 km away one would find another 15 people. If one was going to create a ward of 5 000, a ward would have to be very big in order to have such number of people. In a big ward, people would need to walk many kilometres to the voting station.

When the MDB decided that there was a norm, that norm informed the creation of a ward. A norm was a pre-decision. A councillor could not have a ward of 15 people. A councillor in Soweto should represent the same number as a councillor in the Northern Cape, Free State, etc. The norm should apply in practical situations, but the same norm could not apply in a rural community. Malamulele town in Limpopo was, for example, not like Cape Town. In Cape Town, there was a concentration of the people, particularly on the Cape Flats. The norm was something that they agreed, that it should constitute a certain number. Councillors were paid salaries, and should be paid the same money, but conditions should change. They should not have the same number of registered voters. Not all people who were entitled to vote, were registered to vote. The population of a ward could not be based on the number of those who were registered to vote. There should be other norms informing the demarcation, because the population kept increasing. The deviation should be used. There should be an awareness campaign on the issue of demarcation so that people could understand that there was no cheating.

MDB’s response

Mr Sigidi said he appreciated Members’ inputs, comments and questions. All the questions asked had previously been asked by stakeholders in their interactions with the MDB. The MDB would look at how it would address these concerns. Some questions had spoken about the internal challenges faced by the MDB. In its response, MDB would speak about those challenges.

He reminded Members that the economy was not performing well, so the MDB was not get sufficient funds for enhancing public participation. All issues raised by Mr Maake were not something new. The MDB was aware of them. He gave an example of what one councillor of the City of Johannesburg had said. He said that he had sat in a sitting room, and his wife had been in the kitchen, and whilst she was in the kitchen, she was in another ward. If one went to the mall next to the airport, the parking of the mall was in another municipality. The reality was that this had implications, such as property rates. Property rates varied from one municipality to the other. 

Demarcation was a science and was done without politics effecting it. It relied heavily on calculations. Parliament was saying that the deviation should be used in lieu of the norm. The deviation could be used, but it would not solve problems. The deviation principle used 15%, and the population could not be more than that. If a settlement was sparse, it meant that it might be combined with another area. He gave the example of Hillbrow, which was split over more than five wards. The norm was applicable to Hillbrow suburb. In the City of Johannesburg, the population increased because of migration from outside the City, but the wards could no longer be increased because they had reached the maximum number of wards, which was 270. When people continued to migrate, these wards would have more people than the norm required. In terms of the Act, there should not be more than 270 councillors under a municipality. It was an issue of the norm.

There had been an analysis on the impact of demarcation, and the report had been submitted to the premiers because the MDB wanted the Municipal Structures Act to be amended. The proposal would be discussed by the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) Committee, according to the Minister of COGTA. The proposal was before the Cabinet. The proposal was to change the norm from 15% to 30%. However, the 30% norm could not be applied to all wards, as it might not be feasible at some of them.

On the declining numbers in North West, Mr Sigidi responded that if one went to some municipalities and looked at the voters’ roll that was given to the MDB, one would find that there had been a decline in the number of registered voters. Actually, it was not really a decline -- people had migrated to other areas. When people moved to other places, this might have an impact on the number of councillors required under a municipality. The MDB did not use the National Population Register, but the Voters Roll as established by the IEC. 

On the issue of the national population register, the MDB had engaged with the IEC and academics and they had indicated that if it relied on the national population register, this would complicate the work of the IEC. Another method that could be used was a “cross sectional area.” Its implications could be that only three voters might be found in a ward.

On what the MDB did to avoid disruption, Mr Sigidi responded that the previous board had looked at the IEC and its stakeholders. The work the MDB did becomes technical in nature because a stakeholder who might provide information, might not aware about the migration or movement of the people. The MDB could not find someone who understood the dynamics of a particular area. What it had done was to write to all Speakers, and told them that they wanted to meet with ward committees, ward councillors and political parties, and that they should be interacting on these issues. Last time, the MDB had requested funding from COGTA, and had been provided with R3.5 million for public participation. This fund could not cater for all municipalities in the country. The funds were spent on those municipalities which were identified as problematic. They had educated communities on how wards were configured and what the problems that could not be resolved by the MDB were.

On issue of misalignment of communities, Mr Sigidi responded that he would like to address the issue of footprint, because he had developed and submitted a proposal to the National Treasury. The footprint would be applied in all provinces. National Treasury had promised to allocate R4 million, but he was advised in February that no funds would be allocated.

With regard to the issue of Matatiele, he advised the previous Board that the MDB should come up with a serious communication strategy to be able to communicate to the people that they were not responsible for provincial board.  Matatiele was a classical problem of the provincial board.

With regard to JB Marks, he said the MDB had received a letter from a person from that area, but it was seemingly drafted by a lawyer. It was not related to demarcation, but rather to people who were in municipal spaces and who did not understand the arrangements for service delivery on the basis of municipal boundaries. The MDB was not looking at financial viability, but rather at social cohesion and transport infrastructure. JB Marks was not an initiative of the MDB -- it was initiated by the Minister, in consultation with all Members of Executive Councils (MECs).

There were criteria that applied to areas outside metros, and financial viability was one of them. The Municipal Structures Act applied. Incidentally, last week the MDB had held a seminar where the Financial and Fiscal Commission (FFC) was presenting. The FFC Chairperson had raised the issue of financial viability, and the MDB had indicated that it was not looking into that, but rather the amalgamation of Lesidi and Mangaung. It had found that amalgamation was not working because of problems among municipalities.

There were certain issues that needed to be taken into consideration for amalgamation to take place. The factors to be taken into account when determining municipal boundaries were set out under section 25 of the Demarcation Act. One of them was the financial viability and administrative capacity of the municipality to perform municipal functions efficiently and effectively. The number of councillors could be deviated from by the Minister, in consultation with MECs. If a municipality had 30 councillors, a deviation was possible. If a municipality had seven councillors, a deviation was not possible. In Kwazulu-Natal, there were many municipalities because the MEC applied the deviation norm. The City of Johannesburg had reached the maximum. The MEC could deviate on other municipalities, because they were still under 270.  Once the deviation was signed off, that was when the MDB would come in. The deviation fell with the power of the MEC.

On the areas covered, Mr Sigidi responded that he did not have number with him, and would rather respond to this in writing. The MDB was not dealing with outside the municipal boundary determination, in that wards could not be created outside boundaries. He reiterated that although KwaZulu-Natal had a bigger population, the number of registered voters was fewer than those registered in Gauteng.

With regard to criteria, the criteria were those underlined in the presentation. There were criteria and guiding principles. There were certain areas were communities could not, as far as possible, be divided. In certain instances, it was not practical to cut communities into different wards. Cutting wards was approached carefully. It did not matter if two areas – developed and non-developed – were combined. These areas could be catered for accordingly. 

Regarding the promotion of public participation, Mr Sigidi responded that the MDB relied on municipalities for calling on communities to engage with them. It focused heavily on representative democracy, rather than engaging with the whole community. It would be practically impossible to engage with all communities in the country.

Migration led to reconfiguration or cutting of wards, and a new map had to be submitted to the IEC 10 months prior to elections so that it had adequate time to explain to communities about the changes. Leaders of political parties should engage with communities and help the IEC to explain the changes to them.

Further discussion

Ms Khanyile asked when maps would be available for political parties to scrutinise them, and sought clarity on the timeline for comments on maps.

Mr McGluwa commented that there were other platforms, where issues relating to municipal boundaries or demarcation or ward cutting were discussed. He compared getting responses on demarcation to catching a fish. When questions were put to the IEC, the IEC indicated that the MDB was the proper structure to respond. When questions were posed to the MDB, the MDB responded that questions should be directed to the IEC. There were numerous laws that empowered these entities to determine boundaries. He commented that in Gauteng, the desired outcomes were not achieved insofar as demarcation was concerned. He was of the view that the objectives of demarcation had not been taken into consideration when creating JB Marks. He felt that amalgamation was very important.

Mr Maake said that he did not feel the objectives of presentation had been achieved. The ward delimitation criteria on slide 20 were not being implemented by the MDB. What he understood from the presenter was that the law inhibited the implementation of these criteria. The criteria and guiding principles were not working. The MDB had said that the national population register was not working. The creation of new boundaries and wards resulted in communities killing each other. Communities were fragmented. Poor communities were amalgamated with towns. There were problems everywhere. He said that an area might be inhabited by foreign nationals who could not vote. For example, Malamulele area had many people from Mozambique. However, this would not stop the government from delivering services in that area. Services were not delivered to registered voters only. He did not understand how these issues were being approached. 

Mr Lekota commented that Members had huge responsibilities towards communities, not only to implement things that were said at the meeting, but also to meet the constitutional mandate. In other countries or societies, one would find women in the leadership of communities, doing things that would develop those communities. Women could be found doing a lot of things for the rural communities at the local level, including the collection of funds in order to be able to do certain things for those communities. It was at the local government level where many things were done.

South African society was doing things in a different way. Before the ANC came to government, people who stood for municipal elections to represent others were not paid. People were volunteering to see that elections were successful, and to see that people had houses, water, electricity, etc. At the time, they had to have another job. They could be teachers, pastors, shopkeepers, etc. In their free time, they went to the municipal council to have a meeting to take a decision on what to do with roads in their municipalities and what to do with money raised through rates. When the ANC came to government, it was decided that people at the local level should be paid. The money that had been used to build tarred roads, to build toilets, and clean the environment, was shifted to their salaries. They was no longer money for services, and there were no longer funds for their salaries. He was afraid that councillors would be asked to take their positions on a part time and voluntary basis. They would be given stipends to come to meetings. They would need to have their own job and stand for elections, just to serve people. Members should accept that this would happen soon. Another problem was that people would no longer be willing to pay for services that they were not getting. He suggested that there might be a study on how these matters should be readjusted to speak to the reality of the lives of the people.

The Acting Chairperson said that the presenter should not respond on comments that fell outside the scope of his presentation.

MDB’s response

Referring to the maps, Mr Sigidi responded that they had completed the drawing of maps. Maps had been submitted to municipalities. The timeline for inputs on ward delimitation was from November 2019 until April 2020. In this period, the MDB would conduct public participation. Objections and inputs would be published.

On the issue of JB Marks, he said that he had not been explicit. They did not choose JB Marks for amalgamation. They had chosen two municipalities in which JB Marks was found for amalgamation. Demarcation was dependent on objective and subjective elements. Section 25 of the Municipal Demarcation Act applied. The MDB had to take a decision if a municipality could request a demarcation. He suggested that the Municipal Demarcation Act had to be amended in order to respond to the matters raised by Mr Maake. The Committee should engage with COGTA to establish what could be amendable in the Act. He hoped that an amendment to the Act would be tabled in Parliament soon.

The Chairperson said that the Committee should appreciate the work the MDB had been doing since it was established, and also to note the challenges it was facing. He supported the amendment to the Municipal Demarcation Act that would facilitate the possibility of addressing certain challenges.

The meeting was adjourned.


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