South Africans take to the queues for change

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Pretoria - Registered South African voters today have the opportunity to elect their municipal councillors at the country's fourth democratic municipal elections.

Basic service delivery such as housing, electricity and jobs will be at the heart of the 23 million registered South Africans when they take to the more than 20 000 polling stations countrywide.

Voting kicked off at 7am and booths will close at 7pm, as citizens will be voting for their ward councillors, which can be either a member of a political party, or an independent to lead their communities.

The municipal elections are taking place in six metropolitan councils, 226 local councils, 44 district councils and 4 277 wards.

Accordingly, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has established 20 868 voting districts. Of these, 633 are categorised as voting centres and will cater for large numbers of voters.

Unlike in the previous national election in 2009, people can only vote at the station where they registered.

A total of 121 political parties and about 53 596 candidates have been proposed by various political parties to contest this election. There are 748 independent candidates also taking part in this election.

As with national and provincial elections, municipal elections take place every five years. The five-year term of the present municipal administrations started on 2 March 2006 and has now ended.

In terms of this vote, if a party receives 70 percent support, it will be allowed to appoint 70 percent of the proportional representation councillors in a municipality.

Half the councillors in a municipality are ward councillors directly elected. The other half are proportional representation councillors appointed in terms of candidate lists prepared by political parties.

For South Africans living in one of the metropolitan areas (e.g. Johannesburg), they will receive two ballots: one for a ward councillor and one for a party.

If you live in a local council with wards (e.g. Standerton municipality), you'll receive three ballots: one for a ward councillor for the local council; one for a party for the local council; and one for a party for the district council.

This is to vote for a party, which will through its candidate list appoint a percentage of councillors who will represent them in 44 district councils that will be responsible for providing bulk services to their municipalities.

When the polling stations close shop at 7pm, ballots will be counted at the voting stations.

Party agents will be present at voting stations during the counting, when the stations close at 7pm.

The agents are required to sign off the slips, which will be posted outside the voting station.

They will then be allowed to accompany the slips to the IEC's municipal office where the information will be digitally fed to the IEC center in Pretoria.

Auditors, party agents, and observers here will monitor the processing of the results which will then be communicated to the Independent Electoral Commission's centre in Pretoria.

The first results in the elections are expected before midnight on Wednesday evening, while the final results should be out by not later than Sunday.

The IEC has assured that the entire electoral process is transparent, free and fair, and importantly with several security measures have been put in place, including the securing of ballot papers and polling stations.

The average turnout for municipal elections since 1994 has always been below 50 percent, a contrast to the national elections which is usually more than 80 percent. The IEC hopes that no less than 40 percent voters will turn up to the polls.

After this election, Buffalo City Municipality (East London area) will now become a Metropolitan Municipality. This means that they will no longer be part of the Amathole District Municipality.

Mangaung Municipality (Bloemfontein area) will also become a Metropolitan Municipality.

The introduction of these two Metropolitan Municipalities will bring the total to eight. This will cause the number of district councils to drop to 44.

The number of non-metropolitan councils will be reduced to 226, from the previous 237.

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