A draft Local Government: Municipal Structures Amendment Bill released on 21 May 2024 or comment may to some extent have drawn from – or may even have been inspired by – two Bills tabled in Parliament on 8 April 2024 by the DA’s Siviwe Gwarube.  

Like all Bills still before Parliament when it rose for the 29 May 2024 elections, Gwarube’s Local Government: Municipal Structures Amendment Bill and Local Government: Municipal Structures Second Amendment Bill have now lapsed pending a decision from the new post-elections Parliament on whether they should be revived or withdrawn. Given that, at the time of writing, the outcome of the 29 May 2024 elections had yet to be announced, National Assembly seats allocated and new MPs assigned to that House’s various portfolio committees, it is impossible to predict how Gwarube’s two pieces of proposed new legislation will fare if revived. Neither is it possible to predict how they will be received when eventually considered by the Committee on Co-operative Governance & Traditional Affairs. To date, not a single DA Bill has progressed beyond the procedurally required committee vote on its desirability. 

However, even if the Bills themselves are declared undesirable by the committee, rejected by the House and withdrawn, their contents are unlikely to be completely ignored. The overarching objective shared by both is to mitigate the potential for certain provisions in the principal statute to be abused by parties to a coalition government, thus making it unworkable. 

When the Department of Co-operative Governance & Traditional Affairs’ draft Bill will be ready for tabling is anybody’s guess. The process of finalising a Bill developed by the executive itself can be lengthy. Perhaps the new, post-elections committee will be gracious enough to bear this in mind when deciding what to do with Gwarube’s two Bills. Whatever the case, she and her party did well to draw attention to what needs to be done as soon as possible to legislate for effective governance at local government level. 

Meanwhile, according to an SAnews article on the executive’s draft Bill now open for public comment until 5 July 2024, once tabled, passed by Parliament, enacted and operationalised this particular piece of proposed new piece of legislation is expected to:

  • address 'governance challenges related to “unscrupulous manipulation” by parties less represented in (a municipal council)'
  • curb the formation of coalitions incentivised by 'promises of senior positions or outright bribes', and
  • mitigate 'infighting' among council members 'characterised by walkouts (and often) resulting in “inquorate” councils ... (unable) to execute their legislated mandate'. 

To that end, according to a memorandum on the draft Bill’s objects, it proposes a ‘mechanism’ for institutionalising coalition governments and addressing hung council ‘challenges’ by:

  • defining the term ‘coalition agreement’
  • making such agreements binding
  • enabling municipalities with ‘a mayoral executive system in which no party obtained a majority of seats’ to change into a ‘collective executive system’ within a prescribed period
  • requiring that, to qualify for a seat on the council, a candidate should obtain ‘a minimum threshold of one percent of the valid votes cast during an election’
  • providing that ‘the election or removal from office of municipal office-bearers … (should) be by a show of hands’, and
  • prescribing grounds for the removal of municipal office-bearers from office.

Please click the link below for more information:

  • draft Bill
  • SAnews article
  • SA Legal Academy report on the two Bills tabled by the DA’s Siviwe Gwarube

Published by SA Legal Academy Policy Watch

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