While national government makes central laws and sets policies for the country, the decisions taken by local governments have a direct bearing on the quality of people’s lives.
Local elections have a direct impact on the citizens of a municipal area. The people and parties voted into the municipal council take decisions on matters that affect everyday life, such as water supply, road maintenance, electricity, and essential services, says Prof Erwin Schwella, a political analyst and dean of the School of Social Innovation at Hugenote Kollege in Wellington.
The national elections, on the other hand, are to do with central government, which makes and enforces national laws and policies. Often, ideologies rather than practical issues play a big role in these elections, says Schwella.
“Local government represents a learning opportunity for politicians. You often find that councillors become provincial councillors and later national office bearers. Local government is the basic formative process for political leadership,” says Schwella.
South Africa use both a ward system and the system of proportional representation (PR) in municipal councils.
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According to the Electoral Commission of South Africa, there are three types of municipal councils in South Africa:
District councils. District councils have executive and legislative powers in areas that include