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The final registration weekend for the upcoming municipal elections takes place over the weekend of 9 and 10 April. If you’re a South African citizen remember that your vote is not only important when it comes to national elections – it’s at municipal level where government and citizens meet directly, and in a way this vote affects you more, because you are voting for the people who will provide you with the services you need to survive.
You’ll be voting for people who will ensure delivery of water and electricity; keep parks, roads and other public spaces clean; implement and manage housing projects drawn up by national and provincial government; decide what roads to build, and where; and more. These are matters that affect your day to day life, and it’s crucial that you have a say in who handles them.
Voters have the right to hold municipal officials accountable for good and bad conduct, instances of corruption, poor or excellent service delivery, competent or incompetent management of finances, and all other aspects of their performance as servants of the people.
To ensure that you know exactly what is required of you as a citizen in the 2016 elections, read our handy guide, which is based on information provided by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).
For more answers, visit the IEC’s website.
What is local government?
Local government is a tier of government, with national and provincial government. The three tiers are autonomous and should not be seen as hierarchical, although they are inter-related and inter-dependent.
The government machinery at all three levels is made up of three parts:
There are three kinds of municipalities:
South Africa’s local government is made up of eight metropolitan municipalities, 44 district municipalities, and 205 local municipalities. The eight metropolitan municipalities are:
All municipalities are governed by municipal councils which are elected every five years. Most municipal councils are managed by an executive committee, elected executive mayor and a municipal manager.
The councils of metropolitan and local municipalities are elected by a system of proportional representation, while the councils of district municipalities are partly elected by proportional representation and partly appointed by the councils of the constituent local municipalities.
Therefore at local government or municipal elections the voters have three ballot papers: one to vote for a candidate for ward councillor, one to vote for a party for the council of the local municipality, and one to vote for a party for the council of the district municipality (if they live in a local municipality).
When will the elections be held?
The exact date of the 2016 municipal elections will only be known when the election is officially proclaimed by David van Rooyen, the minister of co-operative governance and traditional affairs, at some time in the near future.
In terms of the Constitution the election must be held between 18 May and 16 August 2016. These dates represent the requisite 90-day window provided at the conclusion of the five-year term of office of municipal councillors elected in 2011 and in any subsequent by-elections.
Why are municipal elections different from national or provincial elections?
In municipal elections you vote for city or town councillors who will run your town council for the next five years. In national elections you vote for members of Parliament and in provincial elections (held on the same day as national elections) you vote for members of the provincial legislature.
Municipal elections are held every five years – the current term of office of municipal councils ends on 18 May 2016.
In national and provincial elections, you vote only for a political party, but in municipal elections, you vote for a political party and a ward councillor. The councillors will serve on the town, city, metropolitan or district councils that ensure services that impact the daily lives of citizens in their areas including water, electricity and sanitation.
When will we receive the results of the 2016 local government elections?
By law the election results must be announced within seven days of the day on which the election took place. In municipal elections each ward and municipality is its own election so these results are announced as and when the counting and results processes have been finalised. The first results will probably be known within a few hours of the close of voting stations and the results for municipalities within a day or two of the election. Watch the media for information or you can follow the results on your smartphone by downloading the IEC’s results app.
How do I contact the Independent Electoral Commission?
Contact Centre: 0800 11 8000 Monday to Friday from 07h00 to 21h00
(Note: social media admin will only respond from Monday to Friday between 08h00 and 17h00)
SMS: 32810 (SMS your ID number for your registration status and details of current voting station)
USSD: *120*432# or *120*IEC#
Who can register?
What do I need to register?
By law, you must apply in person, so no online or email registrations. You must bring your valid green, bar-coded ID book, or smartcard ID, or TIC. No other forms of identification are accepted (not even passports or driving licences). Only original documents – no copies – are accepted.
Please note that no proof of residence is required.
When do I register?
The second and final registration weekend for the 2016 municipal elections takes place on 9 and 10 April 2016. Voting stations will be open nationwide for registration from 08h00 to 17h00 both days.
After the weekend, you can register during office hours at the local IEC office responsible for your voting district. You should always phone first to make an appointment, because electoral staff are often out of the office conducting voter education in their communities, especially as the election draws near.
Please be aware that the voters’ roll for an election closes at 17h00 on the day that the election is proclaimed, that is, published in the Government Gazette, and it is impossible to vote in that election if you have not applied for registration before then.
After the closure of the roll, you can still make an appointment to register as a voter at your local IEC office, but you will not be able to vote in the proclaimed elections. By law, no exceptions can be made.
Where do I register?
Apply for registration during office hours at the local IEC office responsible for your voting district, or register to vote on special registration weekends. It’s important to remember that outside of special weekends, you can only register at your local IEC office, not at a national or provincial office.
The second and final registration weekend for the 2016 Municipal Elections takes place on 9 and 10 April 2016, with all voting stations nationwide open from 08h00 to 17h00 on both Saturday and Sunday.
If you would like to register at your local IEC office, please always call first to make an appointment, as nearer to an election electoral staff are often out of office to conduct voter education in their communities.
How does the voter registration process work?
How do I find out if and where I am registered?
Once you have registered to vote, you do not need to re-register to vote in future elections. You will only need to re-register if:
To find out your registration details:
The IEC has a new smartphone app that allows users to check your registration status, find your voter station, get results, keep up to date with social media announcements, and more. The app is available for Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Windows Phone and Symbian.
What do I do if my voting district has changed?
During municipal elections and by-elections, you must vote at the voting station where you are registered, and you must register in the voting district in which you live most of the time.
If you have been informed that your voting district boundaries have changed, you may need to re-register in another voting district.
To find out where your correct voting station is, please go to http://maps.elections.org.za/vsfinder/
What if I have moved since I last voted?
If you are already registered as a voter, and you have recently moved or you realise that you will be living in another place on election day (for example, if you are a student at an out-of-town learning institution), you must go back to a registration point and fill in a form to change your registration details.
You will then be moved to the correct voting district and your name will be put on the voters’ roll for that district.
Who can vote?
Only people whose name is on the voters’ roll may vote. To vote in elections, you must register as a voter. You only have to register once, unless you move (within South Africa) or your voting district boundaries change.
Why should I vote?
Municipal elections are held every five years to elect councillors who will be responsible for governing your municipality for the coming term. They will serve on the town, city, metropolitan and/or district councils that are responsible for services for the people in their areas, including providing water, electricity, sewerage and sanitation services, waste removal and other services that directly impact your daily life.
The 2016 municipal elections, therefore, are your chance to have a direct say in who runs your community and ward, so make your voice heard and make your right to vote count.
How do I vote?
Ensure that you know the exact address of your voting station. Most voting stations are located in community buildings like local schools, churches or community centres.
Where buildings are not available, voting stations are set up in tents in parks or other open land. In some sparsely-populated rural areas specially adapted vehicles are used as mobile voting stations.
Every voting station has large clear signs outside marking it as such.
Present your valid identification document to the door controller at the entrance of the voting station. He or she will check that your ID is valid – being either a green barcoded ID book, smartcard ID or temporary ID certificate – and will scan this document. The controller will then present you with a slip that confirms that you are a registered voter.
The door controller will also tell you when it is your turn to enter the station and will show you where to go. Inside the voting station you will proceed to the voters’ roll table where election officials will take your ID document and check for your name and identity number on the segment of the national common voters’ roll for that voting district.
Your name will then be crossed off – this is a manual mechanism for ensuring that voters only vote once. An election official will then ink your left thumb nail with a special ink that will not wash off for several days.
An election official will then hand you your ballot papers, which they will tear off a pad. Each ballot paper has a unique number and you must make sure that there is a stamp at the back of your ballot papers to verify that they were issued to you on that election day.
For national and provincial elections voters generally receive two ballot papers (one for the national and one for the provincial election), whereas for municipal elections voters in metros and local councils receive two ballot papers (one for a ward councillor and one for a political party as part of the PR section of the election.
Voters in areas which form part of a district council receive a third ballot paper for the district council election.
Your green ID book, if that was your identification document, will then be stamped by an election official to show that you participated in the election.
You will then be directed to an empty voting booth. Here you will place your X in the box next to the political party and/or candidate of your choice. To avoid a spoilt ballot, ensure that you make only one mark on each ballot paper and that your mark is clear.
If you make a mistake call an election official and they will provide you with a new ballot paper.
When you are finished, fold your ballot papers in half and leave the voting booth. You are not allowed to photograph your marked ballot paper.
An election official stationed at the ballot box will check that there is a stamp at the back of each of your ballots. Having made your mark, drop your completed ballot paper through the slot in the top of the ballot box.
After casting your vote, you will be directed to the exit.
Remember that political party representatives and independent observers (both national and international) are present throughout the voting and counting process to observe the process and to ensure it is free and fair.
Do I qualify for a special vote?
A special vote allows a registered voter, who can’t vote at their voting station on election day, to apply to vote on a predetermined day beforehand. Such circumstances might be owing to pregnancy, illness, old age, business outside the country, or military deployment outside the country, among others. Note that voting abroad is only allowed for national and provincial elections.
You can apply if you:
To ensure you are a registered voter, you can:
By law, you can apply for a special vote if you:
You must apply for a special vote during the period specified in the election timetable (only published once the election date has been proclaimed). Go to your local IEC office (not the national or provincial offices) and submit a MEC35 form – these can only be hand-delivered (no emails or faxes are accepted), but someone else can deliver your completed form on your behalf.
You should receive an SMS notifying you of the outcome once your application has been processed, but you can also check the status of your special vote application online.
Dates for the casting of special votes (usually a day or two before election day) are predetermined and published in the election timetable for a specific election. By law, special votes can only be cast on the date/s specified in the election timetable and no exceptions can be made.
If you can’t travel to the voting station where you are registered because you are physically infirm, disabled or pregnant, voting officials will visit you at the place where you’re living (must be within the voting district where you’re registered) and allow you to vote.
If you can travel, but can’t vote at the voting station where you are registered on election day, you will vote at the voting station where you are registered on the special vote date specified in the election timetable.
If your application for a special vote is successful, you will vote as follows:
Is there other assistance for people with disabilities?
The IEC, together with the South African National Council for the Blind (SANCB), has developed a voting aid, the Universal Ballot Template (UBT), to assist persons with disabilities and special needs to have an independent and secret vote during elections.
The UBT can be used by:
The UBT can be used oin national and provincial elections, municipal elections, and by-elections. To find out more about the UBT, you can download the fact sheet.
Can I vote if I’ve lost my registration sticker?
You will be allowed to vote as long as your name is on the voters’ roll. If your name isn’t on the voters’ roll and you don’t have your registration sticker, you have no proof that you’ve registered and you won’t be able to vote. Please check your voter registration status online to make sure your name is on the voters’ roll.
What is the relationship between a voting district and the voters’ roll?
Although all voters are registered on a single national common voters’ roll, each voting station receives only the section of such roll for that particular voting district. The voters on one segment of the roll will not appear on any other segment anywhere else in the country.
How do I find my voting station?
What if I want to stand as an independent candidate?
Any registered voter in a municipality may stand for election as a ward councillor in that municipality. Candidates do not have to register as a party does, but must be nominated by people who live in the municipality in that ward, and are registered on the voters’ roll.
All candidates must submit the following to the local office of the IEC in the municipality where they are contesting elections:
How do I register my political party?
Any party that wants to participate in an election must register with the IEC.
Registering at national level will allow your party to contest elections of the National Assembly, provincial legislatures and all municipal councils.
However, you may choose to register only at municipal level for a particular municipality or municipalities, and your party will then only be allowed to contest municipal elections for those particular municipal councils stated in your registration application.
To register to contest elections in only a specific municipality or municipalities, you must submit:
How do I find out who my ward councillor is?
You can SMS your ID number to 32245 (R1 per SMS sent or received) to find out who your ward councillor is. Alternatively you can use the IEC website’s ward councillor finder.
• Image from Wikipedia, © Rute Martins of Leoa’s Photography.
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