Municipalities are generally divided into two governance types – the mayoral executive system and the collective executive system. There is a third option called the plenary executive committee system but it appears as if that system not used anywhere in the country.
The mayoral executive system places a large amount of power in the hands of the mayor. The mayor is often referred to as an executive mayor. The executive mayor then selects who they want to sit on the mayoral committee, to assist and advise the mayor in taking decisions. This system is most visible in the City of Johannesburg, City of Tshwane and City of Cape Town.
The collective executive, also known as the executive committee system places executive power in the hands of an executive committee which proportionately represents the leading political parties elected to the municipal council. All decisions must be voted on by the executive committee, rather than being taken by the mayor alone. This system is most visible in the eThekwini Municipality.
The Plenary executive has no mayor. Instead, all decisions are taken by the council itself.
Except in the case of the plenary system, the municipal councillors delegate the executive power to the executive mayor or executive committee but retain their legislative power and power to approve policy and budgets as well as to exercise oversight over the implementation of policy, budgets and by-laws.
An executive mayor has wide-ranging statutory powers that grants the executive mayor much more autonomy in taking decisions than a mayor operating in an executive committee system.
According to the South African Local Government Association, a mayoral executive system is a system of municipal government which allows for the exercise of executive authority through an executive mayor in whom the executive leadership of the municipality is vested and who is assisted by a mayoral committee.
The powers and functions of the executive mayor are set out in section 56 of the Municipal Structures Act. The executive mayor is the political head of the Municipality and exercises both statutory and ceremonial functions.
The executive mayor’s statutory functions include:
- Identifying the needs of the municipality and prioritise those needs.
- To recommend or determine the best way to deliver strategies, programmes and services to the maximum benefit of the community.
- To evaluate progress against the key performance indicators.
- Review the performance of the municipality in order to improve
- To monitor the management of the municipality’s administration.
- Ensure that regard is give to public views and report on the effect of consultation on the decision of Council.
As the political head of the municipality, the Executive Mayor has the following responsibilities:
- To promote the council’s image.
- To promote and defend the constitutional status of the municipality.
- To uphold the principles of cooperate governance.
- To ensure that the mayoral committee performs its functions properly.
- To promote inter-governmental and inter-institutional relations.
- To ensure in consultation with the Municipal Manager that a proper committee service responsible for agendas and minutes is in place for the Mayoral committee.
- To take responsibility for the quality and speed of decision – making.
- To be available on a regular basis to interview the public and visitors to the Municipal offices and to interact with prominent business people.
Only municipalities with a collective executive system may establish an executive committee. A collective executive system is a system of local government where the exercise of the executive authority is through an executive committee in which the executive leadership of the municipality is collectively vested. Simply put, decision making power rests with the committee, by majority vote, and not an individual, as in the case of an Executive Mayor.
Executive committees are regulated in terms of sections 42-53 of the Municipal Structures Act. These sections would only apply to those municipalities who choose to establish an executive committee.
An executive committee:
- Is elected by council of the municipality
- Consists of no more than 20% of the councillors or 10 councillors, whichever is the least, and may not have less than 3 members.
- Must be composed in such a way that parties and interests represented in council are represented in the executive committee in the same proportions as they are represented in council.
An executive committee is the principal committee of the council of the municipality and as such receives reports from the other committees of the council. The executive committee considers these reports and disposes of those which the committee is authorised to do in terms of its delegated powers and forwards the remainder of the reports together with its recommendations to the municipal council for decision.
The executive committee reports to the council and interacts directly with the municipal manager.
The executive committee must identify and develop criteria in terms of which progress in the implementation of the strategies, programmes and services can be evaluated, including key performance indicators which are specific to the municipality and common to local government.
The committee must also regularly review the efficiency of the municipality, monitor the municipality’s management, make sure the public’s views are taken into account in decisions made by council.
A mayoral committee is appointed by an executive mayor and can only exist in a municipality that uses the mayoral executive system.
Section 60 of the Municipal Structures Act provides that the Executive Mayor must appoint a mayoral committee amongst the councillors if Council consist of more than nine members.
In respect of the Mayoral Committee, the Executive Mayor has the following responsibilities:
- Chair the meeting of the Mayoral Committee.
- Oversee the preparation of the Mayoral Committee Agenda.
- May delegate specific responsibilities or powers to members of the Mayoral Committee.
- May dismiss a member of the Mayoral Committee.
- Ensure compliance with the Law including the rules of order, during Mayoral Committee meeting.
- Ensure that members of the Public are allowed in Mayoral Committees meetings.
The role of the mayoral committee is to assist and advise the executive mayor. The Executive Mayor together with the Mayoral Committee performs those powers and functions that have been designated to the Executive Mayor by the municipal Council.
Mayoral Committee and its members may only interact with staff members, after having been authorised by the Executive Mayor. For the sake of accountability, all such interaction must take place via the office of the municipal manager.
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While a mayor in a collective executive system is obliged to consult and work through the executive committee in order to move the municipality into a particular direction, they still have statutory powers that cannot be usurped by the committee.
The mayor of a municipality within a collective executive system must preside over meetings of the executive committee, perform ceremonial functions and delegate powers to the members of the executive committee. The mayor’s statutory responsibilities are as follows:
- While a mayor in a collective executive system is obliged to consult and work through the executive committee in order to move the municipality into a particular direction, they still have statutory powers that cannot be usurped by the committee.
- Their authority can be found in both the Municipal Structures Act and the Municipal Finance Management Act.
- The mayor of a municipality within a collective executive system must preside over meetings of the executive committee, perform ceremonial functions and delegate powers to the members of the executive committee. The mayor’s statutory responsibilities are as follows:
The mayor must also take reasonable steps to ensure that:
- the municipality approves its annual budget before the start of the financial year,
- that the budget and services delivery implementation plan is finalized within 28 days after the approval of the budget,
- performance agreements are in line with legislation and are linked to measurable performance objectives.
Deputy mayors in collective executive systems
Deputy Mayors are provided for in section 48 of the Municipal Structures Act.
In the collective executive system, deputy mayors are appointed by council only if the MEC for local government in the province approves that a deputy mayor be appointed. The deputy mayor is a member of the executive committee of the municipal council and is elected when the executive committee is elected.
The deputy mayor exercises the powers and performs the duties of the mayor if the mayor is absent or not available or if the office of the mayor is vacant. The mayor may delegate duties to the deputy mayor. To find out more about the Deputy Mayor’s roles and responsibilities read the South African Local Government Association’s guideline document on the roles and responsibilities of municipal officer bearers.