Provincial and Local Government

South Africa Table of Contents

Until 1994 South Africa was divided administratively into four provinces, the Cape Province, Natal Province, the Transvaal, and the Orange Free State; six "self-governing" homelands, Gazankulu, KaNgwane, KwaNdebele, KwaZulu, Lebowa, and QwaQwa; and four "independent" homelands or "sovereign independent states," Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda, and Ciskei (see fig. 11). The government estimated in the early 1990s that 44 percent of the country's total population resided in the ten homelands, which formed less than 14 percent of the total land area. A 1992 study by the Urban Foundation, a South African research organization, concluded that this high population density--several hundred persons per square kilometer in some areas--greatly exacerbated socioeconomic and political problems in the homelands.

To resolve these problems, government and ANC negotiators redrew the country's internal boundaries, dissolving the homeland boundaries and forming nine new provinces (see fig. 1). The demarcation process began in May 1993, when the Multiparty Negotiating Council appointed a 150-member Commission on the Demarcation of States/Provinces/Regions, with instructions to hold a public hearing and to submit recommendations to the council. After receiving 304 written reports and hearing eighty oral witnesses, the commission recommended the formation of nine provinces, with a few disputed borders to be reconsidered at a later date. These recommendations were incorporated into the interim constitution, and the homelands were officially dissolved on April 27, 1994.

The interim constitution assigns authority in each of the nine provinces to a provincial executive, or premier, and a legislative assembly. The premier, elected by the legislators, selects a council, or cabinet, based on proportional representation of political parties (see table 17, Appendix). Provincial legislatures have between thirty and 100 members, although within those limits, the size of the legislature is proportional to the number of votes cast in the province--i.e., the total is divided by 50,000, and that number is added to the base of thirty delegates (see table 18, Appendix). Thus, at both the provincial and the national levels, voters select a political party they wish to have represent them rather than a specific individual to serve as legislator. The legislators are chosen on the basis of proportional representation from lists of party representatives.

The capitals of the new provinces are Cape Town (Western Cape), Kimberley (Northern Cape), Bisho (Eastern Cape), Bloemfontein (Free State), Nelspruit (Mpumalanga), Pietersburg (Northern Province), Johannesburg (Gauteng), and Mmabatho (North-West Province). The capital of KwaZulu-Natal was not yet decided, between Ulundi and Pietermaritzburg, as of 1996.

As the 1994 elections approached, the government amended the interim constitution to strengthen the power of the provincial governments, largely in an attempt to appease Zulu and Afrikaner separatists. These new measures uphold the general principle of "self-determination," to the extent that people of a common culture are allowed to establish a "territorial homeland" where their language and traditions can be maintained. They also stipulate that the resulting homeland must have broad popular support within its boundaries and its policies may not be racially or ethnically discriminatory. The amendments also assign to the provincial authorities the power to levy taxes and to formulate a provincial constitution, as long as they do not violate constitutional provisions concerning fundamental rights. Furthermore, to satisfy Zulu aspirations, the negotiators adopted the name KwaZulu-Natal for the former Natal Province and agreed to allow the Zulu king to retain his honorary crown and to continue to receive his salary from the central government.

Although the new provincial administrations assumed power immediately after the April 1994 elections, many of them were unable to deliver government services to their constituents in the months following the elections. Provincial authority had not yet been fully defined, and many provincial and local-level offices and procedures continued to be under the control of apartheid-era civil servants. Throughout 1995, several provincial administrators demanded more autonomy and more financial support from the central government, and this issue delayed agreement on a draft of the final constitution in 1996.

One of the last steps in the creation of the new political system was the establishment of new local government institutions below the provincial level. The government planned for elections in 1995 to replace the existing all-white city councils with nonracial, democratically chosen municipal governments and to establish multiracial local councils in rural districts. The Local Government Transition Act (No. 209) of 1993 required 40 percent of local government members to be elected by a system of proportional representation using a party list system, and 60 percent to represent individual localities. The interim constitution specified that the existing local governments in 1994 would continue in place until the new elections were held.

On November 1, 1995, local government elections were held in all areas of the country except KwaZulu-Natal and some parts of the Western Cape. The elections put in place municipal and rural councils, replacing the bureaucratic infrastructure that had existed since the apartheid era. The elections were successfully held in 686 constituencies, although only about 52 percent of the registered electorate turned out to vote. The ANC won seats on all 686 councils, and it won a majority of the seats on 387 councils. The NP won a majority of seats on forty-five councils. The Freedom Front won control over one local council. Independent or nonpartisan candidates won a majority of seats on at least forty-two councils. A few elections were finally decided in byelections held in early 1996. In KwaZulu-Natal and areas of the Western Cape, the local government elections were postponed until mid-1996.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress