The Municipal Demarcation Board yesterday defended its decision to recommend to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) that Mangaung (Bloemfontein) become a metropolitan area, following an attack by Free State Premier Ace Magashule.
Magashule criticised the board three months after the deadline for submitting municipal borders to the IEC. He raised concerns at the recent African National Congress (ANC) summit on local government about the political power and influence metro leaders enjoy.
Addressing a media briefing yesterday, the board’s chairman Landiwe Mahlangu said they were “taken aback” by his criticism.
“The board had numerous engagements with the provinces, including the Free State, as part of the ward delimitation process,” Mahlangu said.
“At no stage of our engagement with stakeholders, including the Mangaung Municipality’s events as part of its preparations to assume the metro status — at which the premier was present — did he show any hint that he harboured such strong views about the role and function of the board.”
Mahlangu said the board had not been officially approached to explore the possibility of reducing any number of municipalities.
As a result, next year’s local government elections would be based on the existing 284 municipalities.
The board recommended changes to 4277 wards in SA.
Mahlangu urged voters to check in which ward they had to vote. Some wards have been reduced or expanded to accommodate the movement of voters since the previous local government election.
“We have tried to keep the wards unchanged in most areas. However, the laws of this country demand that we make an assessment every five years and ensure that there is a balance between the ratios of voters and the number of councillors in a municipality,” Mahlangu said.
Briefing reporters Thursday in Pretoria, Mahlangu said Buffalo City in East London will also be re-categorized as a metropolitan.
“After carefully considering the economic activity and integrated development planning, we came to a conclusion that Buffalo City and Mangaung should become metropolitan municipalities with effect after next year’s local government elections,” he said.
Metropolitan municipalities execute all the functions of local government for a city or conurbation. This is in contrast to areas which are primarily rural, where the local government is divided into district municipalities and local municipalities.
Mangaung and Buffalo City will increase the number of metropolitan municipalities from six to eight. The current metros are City of Johannesburg, Tshwane, Ekurhuleni, Cape Town, eThekwini and Nelson Mandela Bay.
Mahlangu said that while there is a talk of doing away with economically weak municipalities, the 2011 local government elections will be based on the existing 4 277 wards.
“Next year’s elections will be based on the existent boundaries and that can’t be changed,” he said.
In September this year, Mahlangu presented the Independent Electoral Commission with the final list of ward boundaries.
Credit to: Business Day and BuaNews