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PROVINCIAL AFFAIRS AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
16 November 1999
UPDATE FROM THE DEMARCATION BOARD AND BRIEFING BY THE IEC
· Metros - The five proposed Metros should be confirmed on Thursday, 18 November, a possible sixth - Port Elizabeth - may be added.
· District Municipalities - Boundaries will be published on Friday, 19 November.
· Local Municipalities - Draft boundaries will be published on Friday, 19 November. Public hearings on these will be held between 27 November and 3 December before exact boundaries are published on 15 December. Objections will then be heard before boundaries are finalised by the end of January.
· DMAs - State protected conservation areas and sparsely populated areas will definitely be declared DMAs when draft local boundaries are published on Friday. Other area types may also be declared DMAs. Dr Sutcliffe accepted that DMAs do compromise the direct participation of people and will only be used as a last resort. He stressed that a municipality's capacity to serve the needs of its people must remain the key determinate in demarcation.
The IEC gave the Committee an introductory briefing on their responsibilities in the running of elections. It was suggested that amendments may be needed to the Municipal Structures Act and the Electoral Act so that technical contradictions between the two are overcome. It was also indicated that the timeframe would be tight if elections are to be held in November 2000. The IEC needs at least six months to complete its work and this could easily increase to eight if complexities and problems arise. Concern over voting districts was expressed by both the IEC and several MPs.
Mr Y Carrim (ANC, committee chairperson) stated this would be the committee's last meeting of the session and praised members on their hard work in seeing the Municipal Structures Amendment Bill and Disestablishment of Local Government Affairs Council Bill passed in the National Assembly yesterday.
Demarcation Board Update
Dr Sutcliffe gave details of the Board's latest progress. Most importantly, Friday will see the publication of district municipality boundaries and draft local municipality boundaries.
The Constitutional Court judgement on the Municipal Structures Act and the Amendment Bill that has followed mean that the Demarcation Board will determine whether an area should be a category A, B or C municipality as well as determining their boundaries. The Board's original investigation into Metros led to their belief that there could be eleven Metros but that only six were currently ready. Cape Town, Durban and East Rand, Johannesburg and Pretoria were supported by the Minister, Port Elizabeth was not. The Board has just completed a study on the viability of a Port Elizabeth Metro and will decide on Thursday (18 November) whether there will be six or just the original five Metro areas.
The proposed boundaries have been reviewed and there have been several small amendments made. Finalised boundaries are published on Friday.
Cross Boundary Municipalities (CBMs)
A president's forum to discuss the implications of CBMs has been set up. The forum is demanding that specific boundaries be published soon so that required legislation can be set in action during January.
District Management Areas (DMAs)
The Board has defined three types of area that could be DMAs
1 . State protected conservation areas will be declared DMAs. Various linked areas may also be declared DMAs:-
· Private land that borders on to state conservation areas without obvious boundaries, for example private game parks on the boundaries of Kruger National Park - there are no fences and park authorities effectively treat these areas as park land.
· Conservation minded residential communities - the Board does not see these as possible DMAs.
· Local farmsteads - although many argue they are 'conservation minded' the Board thinks it is unlikely they will be DMAs.
The Board's exact policy on these linked areas will be decided in time for Friday's publication of draft local boundaries.
2 . Sparsely populated areas. These are usually areas with less than one person per square kilometre. The Board sees no sense in having local municipalities that cover huge areas of land and join communities that have no functional or community links. These DMAs will cover 30 per cent of South Africa's land mass but will affect only 80 000 people.
3 . Areas identified by national government as economic enterprise zones (green field variety). Declaring these DMAs will allow for strategic management.
Partly due to the concerns of this committee, the Board is no longer considering areas of limited financially viability as DMAs - if the population is there, an area will have its own local municipality.
Settlement patterns demand that there be three different kinds of local municipalities.
· Urban - These are small-sized Metros with dense settlement patterns that should not be linked to rural areas.
· Towns / villages / rural - These will amalgamate small towns and the surrounding areas that have strong functional links. Municipalities will cover 20 000 to 80 000 people and 3500 to 10 000 square kilometres.
· Rural - These will cover dispersed rural communities that will receive no benefit from being linked to distant urban areas. Most of these will be in Kwa-Zulu Natal, Northern Province and North-West Province.
The Board has identified draft boundaries to be published on Friday. In many cases more than one possible boundary has been proposed. Public hearings on these various drafts will then be held between 27 November and 3 December. Exact boundaries will be decided on by 15 December and objections will be heard before the finalisation of boundaries at the end of January. The key aim of the new boundaries is to rationalise the number and size of local municipalities so that they have the capacity to meet the needs of the population. From the current situation of 836 municipalities, each serving approximately 5000 people, 300-350 local municipalities will be created.
· Financing - Even though much is being done in this area there is little coordination. Hopefully a draft document on finance will be completed between mid-December and mid-January.
· Administrative Capacity - The Demarcation Board is required by law to indicate to MECs the implications of boundaries on the administrative capacity of local municipalities - work is underway.
· Powers and Functions - The Demarcation Board must recommend to MECs which responsibilities should be local, which district.
· Traditional Authorities - The exact role and position of traditional authorities must be decided upon. Currently, many have no relationship with their local municipality which can lead to unnecessary duplication of functions.
· Establishment Proclamations - The Board has been requested to prepare draft proclamations. The ultimate responsibility of the proclamations lies with MECs but the skills of the Board should be shared.
· CRAs / Mission Stations - As these are very small they will be incorporated in to larger municipalities or be part of DMAs.
An ANC committee member asked how many DMAs are planned for the Northern Cape. Numerous sparsely populated areas exist throughout the Province so how will this be catered for?
Dr Sutcliffe explained that at district level you could not have more elected representatives for DMAs than representatives for local municipalities. Therefore DMAs will be grouped together for elections even though they may not be adjoined.
Mr Mongwaketse (ANC) wished to know whether further investigation would follow if discontent was expressed regarding the district boundaries to be published on Friday.
Dr Sutcliffe explained that the boundaries to be published were the result of a long consultation process. They may be changed but this is because district and metro boundaries cannot be finalised until local boundaries are finalised. The issue of CBMs further complicates finalisation as it is still to be decided if they are to exist.
Mr J Selfe (DP) wondered whether the setting up of a president's forum on CBMs meant their existence was under serious review.
Dr Sutcliffe's view on the forum was that it has been set up to investigate how large CBMs might impact on the rule of a province, it was not ruling them out.
Mr P Smith (IFP) wished to know whether the Board would use or consider traditional authority wards when demarcating ward boundaries.
Mr Carrim stated that more detail on the impact of local government reform on traditional authorities was needed.
Dr Sutcliffe explained that draft municipal boundaries must be in place before their internal structure is finalised. Further, the electoral formulas for A, B and C municipalities is still to be worked out. Traditional authority wards are under investigation but it is accepted by both the Board and traditional authorities that it may not be possible to take account of traditional boundaries. However the Board believes that the main concern of traditional authorities is that they are not combined with other traditional authority wards, not that they have their own ward. By mid-January the Board hopes to be clear on the situation and position of traditional authorities in each province.
Mr M Bhabha (ANC, committee chairperson: Select Committee on Local Government and Administration) pointed out that DMAs compromise the direct participation of people in local government and that this is especially problematic as many DMAs will replace existing TRCs.
Dr Sutcliffe accepted that, following Friday's publication, there will be much uneasy feeling and not just regarding DMAs. The reduction of local municipalities will leave many mayors and councillors, as well as the public, very anxious. However Dr Sutcliffe feels this cannot be avoided and the crucial need for resource sharing at local level must be provided for. The capacity to serve people must be the key determinate of local municipalities. The changes currently underway are occurring for a reason, namely to serve the needs of the population better. On this basis the Board is investigating all possible types of municipality viable for an area and are only proposing DMAs where they are the only option. Dr Sutcliffe also stressed that demarcation does not finish here. What is being done now relates to the coming elections, it is open for change in the future.
Mr F Van Deventer (NNP) enquired whether boundaries are being linked to management plans and the potential operational capacity of areas.
Dr Sutcliffe responded that current management plans are being considered but pointed out that despite these, two-thirds of current municipalities are experiencing capacity problems. Furthermore the key to the new boundaries is to set up municipalities that will have improved capacity. It is a possibility that there may be interim councils set up prior to the elections to start to plan the future management of finances and functions.
Rev A Goosen (ANC) wondered whether the submissions made by the provinces on municipal boundaries are being recognised.
Dr Sutcliffe said these had been given much consideration and they will form an integral part of the boundary documentation to be published on Friday . Summaries of submissions made and how they agree and disagree with proposals will be clear within the report.
Mr Carrim said that this will be the first in a series of meetings with the IEC. He explained the need for committee members to understand the electoral system, be up to date on the progress made towards next year's elections and understand their responsibilities as committee members.
Prof Herbert Vilakazi, Deputy Chairperson of the IEC, gave a quick explanation of the IEC's responsibilities in the running of local government elections. The IEC will delegate powers to Municipal Electoral Officers (MEOs) in each municipality to implement and oversee IEC directives. The IEC will monitor the work of these MEOs but it is they who run elections, announce results and investigate objections. The IEC will then merely confirm or dismiss these results.
Mr Norman du Plessis, Deputy CEO; electoral operations, then gave a more detailed brief to the committee.
The IEC, the Department and the Demarcation Board have interaction on two levels. Firstly, a coordinating structure of all three allows for high level officials to make policy level plans. Secondly, technical groups of officials meet to ensure practical cooperation and coordinate the work needed once demarcation is complete.
The exact legal framework the IEC must follow is unclear. Technical contradictions exist between the Municipal Structures Act and the Electoral Act and these must be resolved. The Electoral Act is silent on local elections except for a general stipulation that the IEC can run them. The IEC therefore sees the need for a clear blueprint on the local election process, this may require legislation or lead to amendments to the Electoral Act or the Municipal Structures Act.
MEOs cannot be appointed until municipal boundaries are finalised. Structures are being developed according to expected boundaries but exact and definite boundaries are urgently required.
The Demarcation Board has previously stated its work is to be completed by 31 May 2000, leaving five months for the IEC to do its work if elections are to be held on 1 November 2000. Mr du Plessis stressed that about six months were needed for the IEC to do its work and that any added complexities, e.g. special votes from outside voting districts, could easily lead to the need for eight months preparation time. (Decisions on issues like special votes and votes for prisoners are for Parliament to take but Mr du Plessis made clear that these would be problematic).Mr du Plessis explained that local elections were much more logistically complex than either national or provincial elections. Each ward has an election in its own right plus proportion votes are cast for both local and district municipalities. The organisation of this must be decentralised.
Problems involving voting districts are adding to complexity. They seem not to remain static and do not relate to census areas or to traditional authorities. If voting district boundaries are unclear then voter roles must be re-investigated and much re-registering of voters may be needed. This could all be very time-consuming.
There have been several changes to the 1995 system. Instead of ward and proportional votes running parallel they will now be together in a mixed system. The proportional vote will determine the overall composition of the council with ward results being deducted by party. Mr du Plessis thought the new system would place less pressure on voter roles and decrease arguments on where ward boundaries run. However he expressed concern that whilst the number of Metro ballots will decrease from three to two, local and district ballots will increase from two to three. He felt this was problematic in areas of little capacity and limited education.
The management of the electoral process will be increasingly decentralised but this too will face capacity problems. The management of Metros is to be done directly by permanent employees of the IEC - the complexity of these areas justifies this.
Although the Municipal Structures Act allows for voting over a period of days, one-day voting remains the aim of the IEC. Counting will be done at voting stations following the success of this method in June.
As the elections are the direct responsibility of the IEC, they will be funded centrally and there will be no burden on local authorities as there has been in the past.
Role of MPs
· MPs must decide the registration process for candidates.
· MPs must decide how residency is to be measured.
· MPs have a crucial role to play in ensuring the registration of voters.
· Parliament must interact with the provincial legislatures to ensure the speedy proclamation of municipalities.
The following questions were asked and comments made, but as Mr Carrim felt that it was unfair to expect full and detailed answers from the IEC at this stage, not all received a response.
Ms M Verwoerd (ANC) spoke of the concern already raised about how voting districts would affect local government elections. These districts fail to take account of integrated communities, they lead to much criss-crossing and do not make for good ward demarcation. Ms M Verwoerd also wished to know;
· How voter roles for CBMs would be dealt with;
· What amendments to the Municipal Structures Act and Electoral Act were envisaged considering the limited time available;
· What is being done to increase voter education;
· Whether the voter role is currently open, how and where you can register and whether people are aware of it.
Mr du Plessis agreed that voting districts are problematic but felt that the Demarcation Board could be relied on to do a good job and stated that help would be given in the re-registration required. He also stated that registration is possible at any time.
Mr Carrim stressed that the details on elections within the Municipal Structures Act were well thought out and were not up for change. This committee was painstaking in its efforts to ensure that it fitted with the Electoral Act so it seems unlikely that amendments would be needed.
Mr du Plessis responded that possible amendments would only involve minor legal technicalities and would not affect the system envisaged with the Municipal Structures Act.
Ms G Borman (DP) wanted clarity on when the voter role would be complete and stated that there must be a better policy than telling voters to vote where they registered.
Mr du Plessis said that the role will be available by the end of January, ahead of schedule.
Mr F Beukman (NNP) felt that there was need for a national registration campaign.
Mr du Plessis stated that a national publicity campaign to encourage registration will begin next week and that there will be a huge national drive near to the time wards are demarcated.
Mr Van Deventer (NNP) felt it was a concern that the identification documents needed to register were not affordable, a problem that arose during the June elections.
Mr du Plessis agreed that a campaign was needed to ensure everyone had identification documents and thus guarantee inclusively. However he felt that this was a Home Affairs matter.
Mr Carrim summed up by pointing to the trend of low turn outs for local government elections. He felt that this must be stopped and that MPs have a key role in ensuring the registration of voters. Finally, he commented that although the new mixed system aims to increase inclusively and accountability, its impact on the number of female councillors should be considered and investigated.
Mr Carrim stated that the Fire Brigades Amendment Bill has been tabled but that the Municipal Systems Bill will not be tabled until next year.
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