Ramaphosa signs new municipal laws ahead of South Africa’s elections

President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that the Local Government: Municipal Structures Amendment Act will come into effect from 1 November 2021.

The Act, which was assented to by Ramaphosa in June, aims to strengthen governance in South Africa’s municipalities through a minimum councillor requirement and the introduction of a specialised code of conduct.

Councillors who are found breaking the code of conduct will be prohibited from serving for a period of two years. Among other changes, the code of conduct will require councillors to attend a separate number of meetings, and reject any gifts or favours.

Councillors will also be required to declare any special interests within 60 days of being elected. This includes:

  • Shares and securities in any company;
  • Membership of any close corporation;
  • Interest in any trust;
  • Directorships;
  • Partnerships;
  • Other financial interests in any business undertaking;
  • Employment and remuneration;
  • Interest in property;
  • Pension;
  • Subsidies, grants and sponsorships by any organisation.

A councillor who is a full-time councillor may not undertake any other paid work except with the consent of a municipal council which consent shall not unreasonably be withheld.

A councillor also may not use, take, acquire or benefit from any property or asset owned, controlled or managed by the municipality to which that councillor has no right.

Other key changes in the Act include:

  • Provide for a minimum of 10 councillors per municipality;
  • Provide for the prohibition of a councillor who was found guilty of a breach of the code of conduct for councillors for a period of two years;
  • Provide for additional functions of the speaker;
  • Provide for a whip of municipal council;
  • Clarify the formula for the composition of an executive committee.

Section 30 of the Act, which deals with traditional leaders, will only come into effect at a later date.

District model 

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has previously indicated that the Act will form part of a series of regulations in the government’s move towards a new District Development Model (DDM).

A separate Local Government: Municipal Systems Amendment Bill, which the National Council of Provinces is still considering, will assist municipalities in building the skills base necessary to exercise their powers and perform their functions by appointing suitably qualified people and competent senior managers.

A third Local Government Demarcation Bill provides for the criteria and procedures for the determination and redetermination of municipal and ward boundaries and the establishment of an appeals authority.

The new District Development Model responds to the ‘pedestrian growth’ that the country has registered over the past decade, which was ‘simply not enough to ensure employment and income for a majority of people.

The DDM seeks to strengthen the local sphere of governance, moving us away from silo planning, budgeting and implementation, Dlamini-Zuma said.

Dlamini-Zuma said that the new model would provide for a ‘more tangible, common vision for development’ of the country.

“By adopting a long term view and interconnecting the local economies we are able to re-imagine a better community, district and nation.”

Read: Ramaphosa announces extra public holiday for South Africa.

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Ramaphosa signs new municipal laws ahead of South Africa’s elections