By Reon Janse van Rensburg
- South Africans vote in national and provincial elections every five years.
- In terms of the Constitution, the elections must be held within 90 days of the expiry of the term of the sitting National Assembly and Provincial Legislatures.
- The election date is proclaimed by the President of the Republic of South Africa.
What are national and provincial elections?
According to the Electoral Commission of South Africa, national and provincial elections are two different elections. In national elections, representatives are elected for the National Assembly, and in provincial elections, representatives are elected for the Provincial Legislatures.
Although these are two different elections, they are held on the same day, as was the case in 2019.
“Elections are an important way for people to debate and decide on their country’s future. Elections also provide an opportunity for voters to put to use their constitutional rights.” – The Electoral Commission of South Africa.
What is the difference between national and provincial government?
The national government
- makes laws and policies that apply to the whole country.
The national government consists of:
- Parliament led by the Speaker, and the national government led by the President and the Cabinet.
The provincial governments
- make laws and policies that only apply to a specific province.
The provincial government consists of:
- a legislature led by the Speaker and a provincial government led by a Premier and Members of the Executive Council (MECs)
What do you vote for in the national and provincial elections?
You vote for a political party to represent you in the National Assembly in Parliament.
You vote for a political party to represent you in the Provincial Legislator.
In the national and provincial elections in South Africa, voters vote for a political party and not for individuals as in certain countries. The political party then gets a share of the seats in parliament in direct proportion to the number of votes it received during the election. Each party then decides which of its members will fill the seats they have won. This is called a system of proportional representation (PR).
However, the system used in South Africa might change in future. The political party Congress of the People (Cope) recently provided further details about its planned Electoral Laws Amendment Bill which will allow citizens to vote for a specific individual or presidential candidate rather than for a political party.
The aim of the draft amendment bill, which was announced for the first time in 2020, is to give effect to the Constitutional Court ruling of June 2020 that found that the country’s Electoral Act is unconstitutional as it does not provide for adult citizens to participate as independent candidates in the national and provincial elections.
Other elections that must also be taken into account:
By-elections take place within 90 days after a municipal ward council seat becomes vacant due to death, expulsion, or resignation of a ward councillor.
Municipal elections take place every five years.
A hybrid system is used in South Africa, which means both the ward system and the system of proportional representation (PR) are used.
There are three types of municipal councils in South Africa, namely:
Category A: Metropolitan Councils
Category B: Local Councils
Category C: District Councils – District Councils have executive and legislative powers in areas that include local municipalities.
Someone living in a metropolitan municipality will receive two ballot papers in a municipal election:
- The one ballot paper would be for the Metropolitan Ward election – here you vote for a specific person who represents your ward.
- The second ballot paper would be for Metropolitan Proportional Representation (PR), i.e. the more votes a party gets, the more seats they get. Here you vote for a political party.
Someone living in a Local Council or a District Council will receive three ballot papers:
- The one ballot is for the Ward election – here you vote for a specific person to present your ward.
- The second ballot is for proportional representation in die Local Council – here you vote for a political party.
- The third ballot is for proportional representation in the District Council – here you also vote for a political party.
According to the Electoral Commission of South Africa, the local or municipal elections will take place between 3 August 2021 and 3 November 2021, despite the fact that the EFF and the ANC have requested that the elections be postponed. The previous municipal elections were held in 2016.
Election types – http://www.elections.org.za/content/Elections/Election-types/
2021 local government elections likely to go ahead – and they could be the most contested ever – https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2020-09-28-2021-local-government-elections-likely-to-go-ahead-and-they-could-be-the-most-contested-ever/
National and Provincial Elections – https://www.elections.org.za/IECOnline/About-National-and-Provincial-Elections
Major election changes proposed for South Africa – including the option to vote for individuals, not parties – https://businesstech.co.za/news/government/466742/major-election-changes-proposed-for-south-africa-including-the-option-to-vote-for-individuals-not-parties/
Municipal elections – https://www.elections.org.za/content/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=1737