The Local Government: Municipal Structures Amendment Act will commence on the same day that local government elections take place. President Cyril Ramaphosa signed, on 7 October, a notice which was gazetted, informing South Africa that “Under section 39 of the Local Government: Municipal Structures Amendment Act, 2021 (Act No. 3 of 2021), I hereby determine 01 November 2021 as the date on which the said Act, except for section 30 thereof, shall come into operation.”
Ramaphosa signed the act into law on 26 May. Numerous changes are in the pipeline for municipalities, including several relating to the function and powers of the Speaker, a minimum number of councillors for a municipality, the introduction of a whip of the municipal council, and the introduction of a code of conduct for councillors, as well as a provision that councillors dismissed under the code of conduct are prohibited from standing for election for two years.
The as-yet inactive section 30 refers to traditional leaders being subject to the appropriate provisions of the code of conduct, when participating in the proceedings of a municipal council.
Code of conduct introduced
The code of conduct is a new schedule added to the main act. “Councillors must be accountable to local communities and report back at least quarterly to constituencies on council matters, including the performance of the municipality in terms of established indicators,” the schedule states in the preamble.
The rest of the schedule covers, among others, the general conduct of councillors, their attendance and voting at meetings, breaches of the code and investigations thereof, and the application of the code to traditional leaders.
Under the code of conduct, councillors will be required to disclose their interests, and those of “any spouse, partner or business associate”, within 60 days of election to office. These declarations must include:
- Shares and securities in any company;
- membership of any close corporation;
- interest in any trust;
- other financial interests in any business undertaking;
- employment and remuneration;
- interest in property;
- pension; and
- subsidies, grants and sponsorships by any organisation.
In addition, councillors may not request, solicit or accept any reward, gift or favour for:
- voting or not voting in a particular manner on any matter before the municipal council or before a committee of which that councillor is a member;
- persuading the council or any committee in regard to the exercise of any power, function or duty;
- making a representation to the council or any committee of the council; or
- disclosing privileged or confidential information.
Amendments to the original act
The Local Government: Municipal Structures Amendment Act aims to amend the Local Government: Municipal Structures Act of 1998, so as to:
• insert, delete and amend certain deﬁnitions;
• remove all references to district management areas;
• remove all references to plenary executive system as a type of municipality;
• provide for a minimum of 10 councillors per municipality;
• amend the deviation threshold;
• 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;
• clarify the date of assumption of office by a councillor;
• allow for extension on the declaration of the result of an election;
• require the municipal manager to inform the MEC for local government in the province in addition to the Electoral Commission of ward vacancies;
• provide that the MEC call and set the date for by-elections;
• clarify who can inform the municipal manager of a speciﬁc vacancy;
• allow the MEC to designate a person to call and chair a meeting of the municipal council when the speaker, acting speaker or municipal manager refuses to call the meeting;
• provide for additional functions of the speaker;
• provide for a whip of municipal council;
• clarify the formula for the composition of an executive committee;
• provide for the establishment of a municipal public accounts committee;
• provide for the resolution of a situation where excessive seats may arise from the seat calculation in local municipalities;
• amend the timeframe for the municipal manager to inform the chief electoral officer of vacancies;
• allow for the MEC to inform the chief electoral officer of vacancies if the municipal manager fails to do so;
• clarify the supplementation of party lists for local municipalities;
• provide for the resolution of multiple seats which may arise where a candidate qualiﬁes to be elected to more than one seat;
• clarify the supplementation of party lists for district municipalities;
• provide for a Code of Conduct for Councillors;
• provide for transitional arrangements in respect of municipalities with a plenary executive system; and
• provide for matters connected therewith.