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16 October 2014
South Africa

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Local Government

In 2000 the old ramshackle Local Government system of South Africa was replaced with a new, streamlined structure. The new system was designed to drive the Government's transformation programme by delivering clean water, electricity, schools, sewage treatment and roads to the poorest communities in the country.

Local Government consists of Metropolitan Municipalities, District Councils and Local Councils, each of which serves a different part of society.

  • Metropolitan Municipalities are big single councils which administer the conurbations of the large cities. There are six of them - Cape Town, Durban, East Rand, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Port Elizabeth . They are also known as Unicities.
  • District Councils provide services to small towns and rural areas. There are 47 District Councils in the whole country.
  • Local Councils work closely with the District Councils in providing services such as roads and electricity to villages and rural areas. There are 231 Local Councils.

The Government is determined that these Councils will deliver what they're meant to. To ensure their effectiveness the Government has brought in national politicians with a track record of success to run Local Councils. These are people who can run services efficiently and who can balance the books.

Some local services, like water supply, have been privatised. This has met with opposition in big Unicities such as Johannesburg .

The Government has also warned Provincial Governments not to interfere with the municipalities in carrying out their duties. Provincial Governments are upset because they feel they're losing power. They've already lost control of important functions such as the police to the National Government. Now they have lost control and leadership over services like water, electricity and education to Local Government.

Despite Government's best intentions, however, modernising Local Government is easier said than done as the controversy over water supply illustrates.

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