Potential hotspots for local elections flagged

Members of Cosatu take part in a strike protesting the government's plan to trim the public sector wage bill.
Members of Cosatu take part in a strike protesting the government's plan to trim the public sector wage bill.

 A list of potential hotspots for protest flare-ups has been handed to the electoral commission ahead of next year’s local government elections.

The Eastern Cape leads the pack with a total of eight hotspots identified for potential protests by residents over the drawing of new ward boundaries.

Limpopo is next with five hotspots, while KwaZulu-Natal follows with three while others were singled out in   the North West (2),  the Western Cape (2) and one in Free State.

On Tuesday, the Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB) handed over 4,468 final ward boundaries to the Independent Electoral Commission in preparation for the 2021 local government elections.

Municipal wards often change every five years for electoral purposes due to  changes in the number of registered voters, mostly as a result of migration as well as the enrolment of new voters on the voters’ roll.

During the last 2016 local government elections, there were 4,392 municipal wards across the country. Next year there will be an additional 76 wards which will bring the total number of wards to 4,468.

 Communities often protest over the changes in the drawing of ward boundaries and  in some instances the protests turn  violent.

The demarcation board said it identified hotspots during public consultation as residents vented anger mostly over service delivery and also the demarcation process.

“We have a number of potential hotspots…We are sharing this information with the security cluster on where we think there will be problems. This time around, all the areas where there are challenges the board is engaging with the people who have those challenges. We provide information to the security cluster…so that they can send their teams to just check whether indeed these areas we’ve identified are the areas that require some attention,” said MDB CEO Muthotho Sigidi.

The MDB began a ward delimitation process in 2019 with extensive public education and an awareness campaign.

It began after minister of cooperative governance and traditional affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma published the formula which determines the number of councillors the country should have, using the last national election voter’s roll.

After receiving the final determined number of councillors, the MDB calculated the average number of registered voters allowed in a ward and number of wards for all municipalities in the country.

Thereafter, technical sessions were held with municipal officials to prepare draft wards to be used during consultation with stakeholders.

Draft wards were circulated to all municipalities in the country and uploaded on the MDB website.

 The MDB launched the public consultation process in January 2020.

Due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and the declaration of a national state of disaster, the public consultation process was cancelled.

At that time only 109 out of 213 municipalities had already been visited. The MDB in consultation with the IEC then revised the ward delimitation programme.

The revised end of the ward delimitation process was changed from August to November 2020 to give more time to the public.

 The MDB received a total of 1,206 submissions from 213 municipalities. About 70% of these were accepted.

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