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18. August 2016

Local Government Elections Media Briefing

The following is a media briefing by the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on the recent local government elections, which were held in South Africa on 3 August 2016.

For details on the elections, please go to: https://www.enca.com/elections2016

Ministers
Deputy Ministers
Directors-General 
Members of the media
Ladies and Gentlemen

Let me take this opportunity to welcome you all to this media briefing, which follows the fourth democratic local government elections that took place on Wednesday, 3 August 2016.

As you are all aware, South Africa has just held another successful local government elections. To this effect, government commends all South Africans for the part they have played in making the 2016 Municipal Elections a resounding success.

We are encouraged that the successful elections build on the foundation already laid by government in the past 15 years of democratic local government, which by the way, clearly shows demonstrable progress made in accelerating access to basic services by the poor.

The recent elections have signaled another commitment by government to continue speeding up efforts to ensure both the quantity and quality of services provided to communities. It is important to view this against the magnitude of the need for services and existing backlogs, as well as the pressures due to population and economic growth.

We are delighted that this important milestone that contributed to strengthening our democracy took place in the same year in which our Constitution marks 20 years since former President Nelson Mandela signed it into law. This important framework of our democracy continues to guide us towards achieving our objectives, as outlined in the National Development Plan. Together, let us continue to embrace and promote constitutional rights and values, and use them to move our country forward.

The elections were fiercely contested in a spirit of remarkable political maturity and tolerance. We are confident that all political parties and their office bearers will continue to work collectively to move the country forward.  The voter turnout in these elections was higher than in past municipal polls and the turnout of first time voters was strong. To this effect, we applaud the inspirational demonstration of active citizenship and patriotism displayed by many South Africans who turned up in their numbers to cast their ballots in the country’s fourth democratic local government election. 

The sight of millions of our fellow South Africans queuing to vote will linger in our memories. These elections have once again proved beyond doubt that our democracy is resilient and strong. 

On behalf of government and all South Africans, as the IMC on Elections, we offer condolences to the families, relatives and friends of people who sadly passed away on election day and also spare a thought for those who lost their lives in election-related crimes in the run-up to the elections. Government reiterates the view that the violence and intolerance we saw in some provinces prior to the election has no place in our maturing democracy and will not be condoned. We will continue to work through our justice and crime prevention structures to bring the perpetrators of these heinous crimes to book.

Government is elated that our hard work leading up to the elections and on election day itself paid off. The IMC on Elections, which was tasked with providing overall leadership, coordination and planning that began several months before.
Nevertheless, as the IMC, we commend the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) for successfully managing the elections in a transparent, diligent and exemplary fashion with only minimal negative incidents. We are satisfied that the IEC has built on its reputation of holding successful and credible elections. This impeccable record and work of the IEC during the elections was complemented by party agents, and local and international observer missions who monitored our electoral process.

The success of these elections is plain for all to see but it was nothing short of a mammoth undertaking. A record 200 parties and 61 014 candidates contested the
3 August 2016 Municipal Elections, and South Africans throughout the country were able to cast their ballots at one of the 22 612 voting stations.

We always knew that the security arrangements for the polls would be a crucial ingredient in ensuring free and fair elections. The Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster used the tried and tested National Joints Operational and Intelligence Structure, along with the Provincial Joint Operational Centres in each province. These structures were used successfully during the 2014 national elections and at major events such as the 2010 FIFA World Cup and the 2013 Orange African Cup of Nations.

This meticulous operational planning culminated in boots on the ground at every voting station, as well as specific deployments in known hotspots. South African Police Service (SAPS) members performed static protection duties at all voting stations. They assisted in escorting voting material and IEC personnel. Known hotspots were patrolled and regular duties such as investigating reported offences also took place. At the same time roving reaction teams comprising members of the SAPS’s most elite and highly trained units were active in various parts of the country. Our operational plan was further reinforced by over two thousand members of the South African National Defence Force who were on standby.

A total of 279 291 personnel from over 18 government departments and agencies were also deployed to oversee and secure the voting process on the day of the polls. I believe that we can all agree that they did a sterling job in laying the groundwork for South Africans to make their voices heard. We commend them for their unflinching dedication and for working long hours in service of the nation and our democracy.

We also cannot overlook the role played by the Department of Home Affairs in ensuring that people could vote. On 3 August, Home Affairs offices across the country were open from 7am to 7pm in line with voting hours to allow people to collect their IDs or to apply for temporary IDs so they could vote.

From 30 July to 3 August, 66 304 enabling documents in the form of either Temporary Identity certificates (TICs), Green ID books or Smart ID cards for voting were collected from Home Affairs offices across the country. On election day, 6 880 TICs were collected, along with 2 344 Green ID books and 7 048 Smart ID cards. This role became even more urgent when due to unforeseen natural disasters, especially in KwaZulu-Natal, many South Africans had lost their documentation necessary to participate in the elections.

Government knows that access to information is paramount and the role played by the media in this regard will never be overlooked. Your stories and your extensive coverage of the elections are deeply appreciated. Your coverage contributed greatly to the success of the polls, and your voter-education initiatives were most welcome. We are glad to note that our colleagues from the media made ample use of our media statements and attended briefings to inform South Africans, especially registered voters, on the state of readiness.

To ensure that you are always supplied with information on an ongoing basis, a communications operations centre in support of the IMC was convened at Government Communications (GCIS). This operation centre became the central nerve centre of government’s communications with the public, and was motivated by the wish to inform citizens and provide support to the IEC in its communication efforts.

As government we also used social media, especially Facebook and Twitter, to focus on the youth. Our content on social media was viewed by over million young people on election day and by over 3,5 million people over the four days leading up to and including election day.

Now that the elections are over, all thoughts inevitably begin to turn to the metros and councils, along with the new mayors and new councillors. The Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs has been preparing for the aftermath of the elections for some time, and all systems are in place to ensure an efficient and effective local government.

There are currently eight (8) Metropolitan municipalities and forty-four (44) District municipalities – and these will remain unchanged. However, the number of Local municipalities has been reduced by 21 to 205 and we now have 257 municipalities across the country. To this effect, the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs will monitor the amalgamation of the affected municipalities and deal with any outstanding transitional issues.

In the coming weeks, new mayors and councillors will be sworn in throughout the country. These men and women from various political parties have been entrusted with the will of the people and must now deliver on their promises.  

To ensure better understanding, let me outline the process that will be unfolding in the coming days to ensure that we have efficient and effective functioning municipalities serving our people across the length and breadth of our country.
The municipal managers of all municipalities have 14 days within which to call the first Council meetings and we envisage that this will happen sooner in most cases. All municipal managers are aware of their responsibilities in this regard. This includes the preparation of handover reports and the development of staff establishments and ward committees.

At this meeting the Speaker will be elected. The Speaker will then take over proceedings and facilitate the election of the Mayor of each municipality.
The determination of seats for ward and proportional representation has already been calculated according to a set formula by the IEC.

There is a set process to be followed to ensure a smooth transition and that municipalities function optimally.

Working with the South African Local Government Association, we will ensure the implementation of the Integrated Councillor Induction Programme. This programme will serve to inform the councillors of their roles and responsibilities in relation to that of officials, the various procedures to be followed, as well as the legislative and other government programmes in place to guide this.

This will include issues such as councillor oversight, good governance principles, delegations, roles and responsibilities, cooperative governance, standing rules of order, the code of conduct, financial management, government communication and strategic planning. The programme will be rolled out as soon as municipalities start working.

Transitional measures are in place and we will continue to support local government.  At the same time, our Back to Basics programme remains the bedrock of providing services, and provides support in terms of skills and finance.
It is also important to note that the incoming councillors are duty bound to act within the constitutional parameters, and the rules and regulations applicable to local government. We wish them all well and are certain that they will carry out their duties in the best interests of the nation.

With regards to the challenges in Vuwani which saw over 26 schools torched and damaged, President Zuma established an Inter-Ministerial Committee which has since worked with all role-players and stakeholders to find lasting solution. This dialogue and engagements led to the signing of an agreement on 28 July 2016 that will go a long way in bringing normalcy to Vuwani and the surrounding areas.
As government, we want to emphasise that we remain committed to continue with dialogue and discussions geared to finding a lasting solution. This commitment of government speaks to the seriousness with which we take this matter and also confirms our resolve to finding a lasting solution to all the issues raised by the community. As we have committed, the process of engagements will continue.
In addition, we are confident that all political parties and their office bearers will continue to work together to move the country forward.

We also encourage South Africans and members of communities across the length and breadth of our nation to work together with those who are elected. Our role as active citizens does not end with voting; together we can support our new municipalities to ensure that communities receive the best services.

In many respects these elections were distinctive and South Africans were active in this space. We are heartened that most of the conversations were positive and contributed to strengthening our democracy.

The dedication to duty and the willingness of all role players to work hard and go the extra mile ensured that millions of South Africans exercised their precious democratic right to vote.

Finally, let me thank all South Africans for conducting themselves in a responsible manner. These elections have shown that our democracy is strong and that the will of the people remains paramount. Together we can build on the gains we have made during 15 years of democratic local government by ensuring that we remain a winning nation, and this includes both voters and representatives of political parties, whether successful or not.

Indeed, these elections reflected the growing political maturity in our country as well as the deepening of our democracy.

Our successful elections are a victory for democracy.

Enquiries: Legadima Leso CoGTA
Cell: 083 378 9495
Issued by Government Communications (GCIS) on behalf of IMC on Local Government Elections
Media briefings
Year: 2016
Media Statement date: Sunday, August 7, 2016

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