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Many major metropolitan areas in South Africa will experience a change in local governance after the outcome of the 2016 local governance elections. The ANC, which received 55.68% of the votes nationally, lost governance of Tshwane, Johannesburg, and Nelson Mandela Bay. The DA only received 24.57% of votes nationally. Coming third in the national tally were the EFF, who received 8.31% of the national votes.

To achieve control a municipality, a party has to receive 50% of the votes, plus one seat. However, no party which participated in these elections was able to achieve a majority result. This has resulted in the EFF voting with the DA in “hung” municipalities, municipalities in which no party has achieved a majority vote. However, the EFF and the DA have not formed a coalition to govern these municipalities. Instead, the EFF voted with the DA in electing mayoral candidates to unseat the ANC. At a press conference in Alexandra, Johannesburg, EFF commander-in-chief Julius Malema told reporters that he had sided with the DA because “the DA is the better devil”. Malema also confirmed earlier statements that his party would not enter into formal coalitions with any party in any municipality in the country, and would vote with certain parties.

Tshwane, Johannesburg, and Nelson Mandela Bay all make use of an executive mayoral system, as required by the Local Government: Municipal Structures Act 117 of 1998, which categorises metropolitan areas as “Category A” municipalities. In an executive mayoral system, the mayor forms part of the executive, the branch of government which holds sole authority and responsibility of the municipality, and is elected by a full council. The council consists of elected persons who approve policies and by-laws, decide the annual budget for the municipality, and decide on service delivery. On 19 August, DA Candidate Solly Msimanga was officially inaugurated as the executive mayor of Tshwane. Tshwane was a closely contested metro, with the DA winning 93 seats, just four more than the ANC.

Constitutional scholar Pierre de Vos addressed the question of what would happen if no party obtained a majority of seats in a municipal council, and a coalition was not formed between parties in an executive mayoral system on his blog Constitutionally Speaking. De Vos said that the council may be “extremely unstable”, as the election of the executive mayor and their mayoral committee would depend on the support of the other parties, who would be able to remove the executive mayor and their committee if it disagrees with any decisions made by the executive mayor or their committee. De Vos further explained that where a coalition has not been formed, a minority government is formed. The election of the executive mayor and the speaker requires an absolute majority of votes, and a smaller party may choose to vote with a bigger party to elect the bigger parties mayoral candidate and candidate for the position of speaker. As per the Constitution, and as explained by De Vos, a municipal council may only be dissolved after at least two years have passed since the council was elected, with the support of two thirds of council members supporting a motion to dissolve the municipal council.

According to De Vos, in a municipal council which uses an executive mayoral system, such as Tshwane, political parties with the most votes will attempt to form a formal coalition to gain control of the municipality. He explains that when a coalition is formally entered into, agreements are reached on who to vote for as speaker and executive mayor, and agreeing on the composition of the mayoral committee. De Vos further explained that where a coalition is formed, agreements are reached on broad policy objectives of the new municipal government.

In Tshwane, DA councillor Solly Msimanga was inaugurated as executive mayor of the city on 19 August. In Johannesburg well known entrepreneur and DA candidate Herman Mashaba was elected as the executive mayor of the city, while the DA’s Vasco Da Gama was elected as speaker. In Nelson Mandela Bay the DA’s Athol Trollip was elected as executive mayor of the city. Speaking in Parliament, ANC Chief Whip Jackson Mthembu said, “We will definitely change our behaviour and posture including that of being perceived as being aloof, inward looking, self-serving and arrogant.” DA leader Mmusi Maimane said that the ANC had a lesson to learn, saying, “Never take voters for granted. The voters are watching us and they will throw us out of office if we disrespect them.”

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