A comparative analysis on elections from 2000 to date revealed significant changes in municipal wards after every five year cycle. In 2000 there were 3754 wards; in 2006 there were 3895 wards; in 2011 there were 4277; in 2016 there were 4392 and thus in 2021 there are 4468 wards. Notably, wards change from one local government election to the other. There are various reasons for such changes including:
a. the formulae for determining the number of councillors for different categories of municipalities;
b. increase in registered voters which could be an outcome of population growth; and
c. the norm which is the average number of registered voters allowed in each ward in a particular municipality.
The norm is obtained by dividing the total number of registered voters in that municipality by the total number of wards.
Every five years, the MDB delimits wards for electoral purposes. To this end, 4468 wards were finalised and handed over to Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) in December 2020. Following the final determination of wards, the MDB has been engaging with and providing communities with insights and clarity on what informed the final determination of ward boundaries.
Wards are delimited for purposes of local government elections and it should be noted that changes to ward boundaries should not have an impact on the provision of services in any of the communities. All communities are entitled to receive services regardless of their location and wards they reside in. As such, municipalities are legally obliged to provide services indiscriminately.
During the ward delimitation process in 2020, the MDB received a total of 1206 submissions from members of the public and stakeholders. In this regard, members of the community made proposals to the MDB on how they would like their wards to be configured. Of the 1206 submissions received, 368 (30, 5%) were rejected and 838 (69, 5%) were accepted and thus the MDB determined wards and published for objections. Anyone aggrieved by the wards as determined by the MDB was allowed to submit objections within a 14 day period.
The MDB received a total of 1465 objections in response to all published wards in various provincial gazettes. The MDB considered the objections and determined all 4468 wards. With regards to all 4468 wards published, 469 (10, 5%) wards were re-configured and were accordingly varied as a result of objections received, whilst 3999 (89, 5%) wards were confirmed as published.
Some submissions/Objections were rejected on the basis of, amongst others, the following:
• Did not comply to ward delimitation criteria e.g. norm);
• Created unnecessary split in voting districts;
• Did not align or no consideration to physical features, where it is more feasible to do so to allow for a more visible boundary (e.g. rivers, valleys, roads etc.;
• Proposing none contiguous wards;
• Unnecessary split of communities (when a ward boundary can be located where it will not split a community and the ward is compliant to the norm, but an objection proposes a change that would result in a split of a community); and
• Others e.g. affecting municipal boundaries, configurations with more wards than those determined.
“We request communities to note that wards will not remain the same forever. Changes to wards are in most instances inevitable due to amongst others, the need for a fair distribution of the number of registered voters in each ward in a municipality which will facilitate a fair and equitable representation of voters to enhance local democracy and ultimately provision of services to communities. Regardless of where they are situated, voters are entitled to get services “says Thabo Manyoni.
The MDB vows to continue to engage with communities through available platforms with the aim of empowering them to understand it’s often technical but critical processes.