Municipal Matters: Understanding ward boundary demarcation

The Constitution provides that the whole territory of the Republic must be covered by municipalities (sec 152) and requires that the determination and redetermination of municipal boundaries must be done by an independent authority. To give effect to this, the Municipal Demarcation Act provides the legislative framework as to how and when the boundaries of municipalities can be changed. This process is managed by the independent body, the Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB).

To view the Municipal Demarcation Act click here.. 

Only the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, the MEC in the respective province for local government or the local municipality can request a demarcation.

The decisions to determine municipal boundaries are governed by a fairly comprehensive set of criteria set out in section 24 and 25 of the Municipal Demarcation Act. The Demarcation Act refers to these as “demarcation objectives” and “factors to be taken into account”. See the video below.

However, if you would like to take a deeper dive into the process read Municipal boundary  demarcation process:  A process map for the determination and re-determination of municipal boundaries by selecting the image below.

This booklet, among other public education initiatives adopted by the MDB, is aimed at providing members of the public with information regarding the demarcation and public participation processes with the view to empower them to actively take part in MDB programmes.


The Process

Step 1 – Request for Demarcation

A request for municipal boundary redetermination is received in terms of Section 22 of the Act by the minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, an MEC, the municipality.

In terms of Section 26, a notice is then published to inform the public that it is the intention of the MDB to consider the matter, with the notice also sent to stakeholders.

The public is then invited to submit their views and representations on the matter. The MDB then considers these inputs.

In line with Section 27, the Board may hold a public meeting as well as conduct a formal investigation to further investigate support for the request.

At a public meeting a representative of the Board must explain the issue the Board has to consider, and allow members of the public attending the meeting to air their views (thus still testing public opinion on the proposal or request, and not to allow them to vote in favour, or not, of the request or proposal).

The MDB may also require the person or municipality that submitted the request to furnish the Board with information as may be required by the Board.

Only after the MDB has tested public opinion, and has collected all relevant information, can the Board consider the request, decide as to whether the boundary should be determined or not, and take the legal steps to again test public opinion on its decision, before finalising the redetermination.

Step 2 – Taking a decision

Once a decision is taken The MDB publishes its determination or redetermination of a municipal boundary in the relevant Provincial Gazette.

Any person aggrieved by a determination of a municipal boundary may within 30 days of publication of that determination submit objections in writing to the MDB (such objections should ideally be based on the criteria set out in sections 24 and 25 so as to empower the MDB to determine the validity of the objections).

The MDB must then consider any objections, and either confirm, vary or withdraw its determination, and publish its decision in the relevant Provincial Gazette.

If so requested, the MDB must provide reasons to any person for its decision to confirm, vary or withdraw its determination.

The MDB must also:

Send particulars of its determination to the Electoral Commission. The commission then expresses its view about the representation of voters in the council of any of the municipalities affected by the boundary determination.

Inform the minister of finance of the determination.

Inform the relevant MEC who must publish a notice of the demarcation change.

The legal, practical and other consequences resulting from the area of a municipality being wholly or partially incorporated in or combined with the area of another municipality, are dealt with in terms of the Local Government: Municipal Structures Act, 1998.

The determination takes effect – either on the date of the next local elections, or on the commencement date of the municipal financial year following the date of publication of the notice effecting such determination (1st of July). The latter occurs when the demarcation affects none or a very few voters through the municipal boundary change.