Months after the 2016 local government election was conducted, the Municipal Demarcation Board comes to say it spent over R18 million redrawing boundaries for over 21 municipalities in preparations for the elections.
In the board’s recently released annual review, CEO Dithabe Nkoane admitted that changing the municipal boundaries ahead of the 2016 elections placed a massive financial strain on the organisation, reaching R18.5 million.
“Total expenditure for the year under review amounted to R64,737,000, compared to R52,424,000 in 2014/15, representing a year on year increase of 23,5%,” CEO Dithabe said.
“This resulted in a deficit of R18,449,000. This deficit was mainly due to the determination and/or re-determination of boundaries of dysfunctional and non-viable municipalities, as well as ward delimitation,” he added.
The report was released after a number of the municipalities expressed discontent at their new boundaries. Some of these municipalities include Vuwani and Limpopo where at least 50 schools were either vandalised or burned down during protests against municipal demarcation decisions.
Municipal Demarcation Board also reported that the delimitation process resulted in the number of municipalities being slashed from 278 to 257 from the date of the municipal elections.
Prior to and after the new (1996) constitutional dispensation, the number of local government bodies were reduced from 1,262 to 843 local authorities, the body said as it commenced with a further rationalisation process in 1999/2000 which saw the number of municipalities reduced from 834 to 284 in 2000; from 284 to 283 in 2006; and from 283 to 278 in 2011.
Opposition parties also registered their discontent at the increased delimitation and demarcation of municipalities. The Democratic Alliance, for instance, stalled several mergers over the course of 2016 through court proceedings.
Meanwhile, the 2016 local government election saw a massive power change from the ruling ANC to its opposition, the DA. The ANC did not only lose control of the country’s largest city and economic centre, Johannesburg, it also lost bout three million of its voters.
The local election was indeed an acid test for the country’s “democratic pushback.” The power shift reshaped the political landscape in South Africa ahead of the 2019 national election, and also embolden Zuma’s rivals within the ANC to challenge him.