THE BIG QUESTIONS

What’s the power of the electoral commission (IEC)?

In 1996, the constitution established six independent state institutions supporting constitutional democracy or Chapter 9 institutions. One of these was the IEC.

In terms of the constitution, Chapter 9 institutions are “independent, and subject only to the constitution and the law; they must be impartial and exercise their powers and perform their functions without fear, favour or prejudice”.

The IEC’s job is to manage elections and ensure these are free and fair.

Who’s behind it?

A five-member commission. The commissioners provide more than oversight and adjudication. Each has a mandate to support and promote constitutional democracy and ensure that the broader IEC not only complies with the law but also keeps the spirit of the constitution alive.

Commission members are South African citizens who do not hold a high party-political profile. One must be, and is, a judge, currently Judge Thami Makhanya.

* Chief electoral officer: Mosotho Moepya

Appointed in 2012, he has worked for the IEC since 1998, when he joined as director of electoral logistics. He was deputy chief electoral officer from 2001.

He holds a BCom and Higher Education Diploma from the University of the North, as well as an honours degree in business administration and an MBA, both from the University of Stellenbosch Business School.

* Chairman: Glen Mashinini

He was appointed in October last year after joining the IEC first in 1998, as deputy chief electoral officer, corporate services. He then co-founded a specialist electoral management consulting company.

Before rejoining the IEC in May last year, he served as deputy chairman of the Presidential Review Committee of State-owned Entities, and subsequently as special project adviser to President Jacob Zuma.

HOW MANY MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS HAVE WE HAD?

We voted for local government in 2000, 2006 and 2011.

What has changed in our electoral system since 1994?

We used to have the “winner takes all” or constituency system, in which the country was divided into constituencies or wards.

The party with the highest number of votes in a constituency or ward won the election and got a seat in Parliament for that ward.

The votes of the parties that lost in that ward didn’t count.

We now use the proportional representation (PR) system or the party list system.

Here every vote counts.

The total number of votes a party gets decides the number of seats it gets.

Parties draw up lists of candidates, and the number of people who get in will be decided by the number of seats the party wins.

We’ve used this system since 1994 for the national elections.

But in the municipal elections we have used a mixed system, which is a combination of the “winner takes all” and PR, since 2000.

When it comes to calculating the final number of seats that go to the various parties, the principle of proportionality decides this.

For example: If there are 10 seats available in a municipality – five ward seats and five PR seats – Party A, with 50 percent of the votes, has a right to five seats; if it wins four wards, it will get one PR seat.

Party B, with 30 percent of the votes, has three seats: if it wins one ward, it will get two PR seats, to make three in total.

Party C, with 20 percent of the votes, earns two seats: if it did not win any wards, it still gets two PR seats.

Some councillors are elected by winning ward elections; others by being on their party lists for the area.

Which laws govern these elections?

Since its establishment in 1997, the IEC has refined the framework of election laws in keeping with regional guidelines, including the Southern African Development Community Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.

The Electoral Act 73 of 1998 is the instruction manual for elections.

The IEC is responsible for administering the terms of this act, which include the voters roll; voting stations and material; the appointment of voting and counting officers; the accreditation of observers; and the determination and declaration of final results.

The Local Government: Municipal Structures Act 117 of 1998 deals with the establishment, management and functions of the various municipalities as well as the seat calculation formulas.

In addition to the Municipal Structures Act, the Local Government: Municipal Electoral Act 27 of 2000 regulates the specific nature of municipal elections. The act provides for the administration of parties and candidates and all other related voting and counting issues. Municipal electoral regulations have also been published to support this act.

Recent legislative amendments included that of voters being allowed to use smart-card IDs in this election.

What are the rules of this election?

The Electoral Code of Conduct holds until the election results are announced.

Parties and candidates must:

* Speak out against political violence and threats against other parties, the IEC, members of the public and the media.

* Let the authorities know about planned marches or rallies.

* Communicate with other political parties about planned political events.

* Recognise the authority of the IEC.

* Work with the police in their investigation of election crime and violence.

* Accept the results of the election or challenge them.

* Inform the public that all people are free to express their political beliefs.

What’s not allowed?

* Language which could provoke violence.

* The intimidation of candidates or voters.

* The publishing of false information about candidates or parties.

* The inducement or the offer of rewards to a person to vote for a particular party.

* Destroying, removing or defacing posters of other parties.

* Carrying arms to political meetings, marches or rallies.

* Abusing a position of power, privilege or influence to influence the outcome of the elections.

What happens if the code of conduct is breached?

It’s a criminal offence and an individual can be fined or sent to prison for up to 10 years.

Political parties can be fined up to R200 000, they may have to give up their election deposit, they can be stopped from working in an area, or even have their votes in an area cancelled and their elections registration cancelled.

Who votes for what?

Metro council voters get two votes:

* One PR vote for a party contesting the metro council.

* One ward vote for an individual candidate contesting the ward.

Local council voters get three votes:

* One PR vote for a party contesting the council.

* One ward vote for an individual candidate contesting the ward.

* One PR vote for the district council.

District management area (DMA) voters get two votes:

* One PR vote for DMA representatives to district council.

* One PR vote for parties contesting the district council.

In some small local councils with few councillors, there may be no wards and only a local council PR vote and a district council PR vote.

What is local government?

It’s made up of municipalities, and its object is to encourage the involvement of communities in the matters of government.

The job of the councillors responsible for governing a municipality for five years is to ensure provision of services, including water, electricity, sewerage, sanitation and waste removal – everything that directly impacts on the daily lives of people.

South Africa’s local government is made up of eight metros, 44 district municipalities and 207 local municipalities.

Metropoles require integrated development planning, so these have exclusive legislative and executive authority within their boundaries.

Local municipalities are a feature of towns and their surrounding rural areas, which account for most of the country. There are 207 local municipalities, and these share legislative and executive authority.

All rural villages and farms now fall under local municipalities, as there is no longer a difference between urban and rural local government.

District municipalities are responsible for the co-ordination of a number of local municipalities within a region. They are responsible for bulk public services and share legislative and executive authority. There are 44 district municipalities.

The law also provides for representation of communities by their traditional leadership in the local council meetings where a system of customary law is observed.

How can voters stay involved?

Constitutional provisions allow for municipal council meetings, and those of its committees, which are open to the public.

Local communities have the right to contribute to the decision-making process by submitting oral or written recommendations, representations and complaints to the council.

Municipalities are expecting to create conditions for community participation by establishing appropriate mechanisms, processes and procedures.

They have to offer public meetings and hearings by the municipal council, conduct consultative sessions with locally recognised community organisations, and have to, as a duty, take into account the special needs of people with disabilities.

Municipal councils have to establish ward committees and must take into account the diversity of interests within the ward.

Ward committees’ tasks are to:

* Prepare, implement and review industrial development programmes.

* Establish, implement and review the municipality’s performance-management 
systems.

* Monitor and review the municipality’s performances.

* Prepare the municipality’s budgets.

* Participate in decisions about the provision of municipal services.

* Communicate and disseminate information on governance matters.

A ward committee must consist of a ward councillor who is the chair and no more than 10 other people who must represent specific interests, including: women, the youth, the aged; the disabled; health and social development; education, sports, arts and culture; local economic development; community-based organisations and NGOs; environment and community safety; and religion.

What happened in the past municipal elections?

1995 to 1996:

South Africa’s first democratic municipal elections were held on different dates in 1995 and 1996, although most were held on November 1, 1995.

Boundary demarcation disputes led to delays to May 29, 1996 in the Western Cape and June 26, 1996 in KwaZulu-Natal.

The IEC as we know it today did not manage these elections as it was only established in 1997. These elections were managed by the temporary IEC.

South Africans voted for local ward candidates and for the party of their choice (PR, as in national and provincial elections) in those elections.

Over 11 000 seats were contested, of which the ANC won 6 032 (or 58 percent of the vote), the National Party 1 814 (18 percent), and the IFP 754 (just under 9 percent).

After changes to the constitution, elections for municipal councils were extended from every four years to every five years, and it was decided that the 2000 municipal elections and all future elections had to be held on the same day in all parts of the country.

2000:

Although councils for integrated municipalities were elected in 1995/96, ward representation in those councils was based on segregated areas and not on voter numbers. It was only with the passing of the Municipal Structures Act of 1998 that an electoral system resulting in overall proportionality with all votes of equal value became a reality.

The December 5, 2000 elections were therefore the founding elections for our first democratic and fully representative municipal councils. These elections had the same historical significance for local government as did the 1994 elections for national and provincial government.

Depending on where voters lived, they had two or three party or ward candidate votes in metropolitan, local or district councils.

The election witnessed a record number of registered voters at 18.4 million, with the ANC receiving 64.8 percent of the vote, the DA 16 percent and the IFP 7.6 percent.

2006:

Taking place on March 1 during the year in which we celebrated the 10th anniversary of the constitution, the elections again saw the ANC winning the majority of seats nationwide, with 66.3 percent of the vote.

The official opposition, the DA, took 14.8 percent of votes nationwide, while the IFP took 8.1 percent of the vote.

Ninety-seven political parties and 45 189 candidates participated, while the number of registered voters increased from 18.47 million to just over 21 million as a result of ongoing registration.

An interesting development is that the proportion of women as candidates increased from 28.5 percent in 2000 to 34.8 percent in 2006 to move closer to the demographics of registered voters, with women making up almost 55 percent.

2011

Innovations included:

Printing of ballot papers with security features similar to those in national and provincial elections.

The introduction of special voting, previously offered only in national and provincial elections.

How do you check your voting status?

Go online at www.elections.org.za or call the contact centre at 0800 11 8000. If you’ve moved since you registered earlier this year, you could be in a different voting district.

To find out, go to http://maps.elections.org.za/vsfinder/ and search for your street name or suburb.

Unfortunately for you, the voters roll has closed for this election, so you can’t re-register.

What information is on the voters roll, and who gets to see it?

It contains the ID numbers, names and surnames of eligible voters and their addresses. The roll is open for inspection by all eligible voters and political parties, but no contact details are included. To do so would be in breach of legislation.

If your ID book has your maiden name, but you have since got married, it’s only your ID number that gets checked against the National Population Register to ensure you are listed and eligible to vote. Your name on the voters roll does not have to match the name on your ID document.

Prisoners were given the right to vote in the national and provincial elections by a Constitutional Court ruling in March 2004. However, in terms of the current legislation, prisoners cannot vote in municipal elections.

South Africans can only vote abroad in national elections and not in provincial or municipal elections.

What are the hours?

From 7am to 7pm. No one may be admitted to a voting station after it has closed, but voters who are already in the queue to vote by 7pm must be allowed to cast their vote.The IEC may also extend the voting hours of a busy voting station until midnight.

How to distinguish between ballot papers?

At the top of each ballot paper is the name of the election which is being contested – 2016 Municipal Elections.

There’s also the name of the metro council or the provincial code and name of the local municipality and the ward number (in the case of a ward ballot paper) or metropolitan council party vote or local council party vote (in the case of PR ballot paper); or district council party vote (in the case of a district council PR ballot paper).

Below that you will see the full name of each ward candidate and each political party followed by the logo of each party (this will be blank in the case of independent candidates) followed by the abbreviation of the party, followed by a blank square in which you make your mark (an X) for the candidate or party you choose. If you make a mistake, tell the election official, who will cancel it, and you will be given a new ballot paper.

Are selfies allowed in the booths?

In terms of the elections regulations, nobody can produce a photographic image of a marked ballot. This is a criminal offence. No visuals are allowed inside the boundaries of a voting station without the permission of the affected voter and the presiding officer. But the IEC encourages voters to take a selfie or a thumb selfie outside the voting station, and share it on Twitter or Facebook with the hashtags #Ivotedlocal2016 #ProudlySA #InkthumbSA to show you’ve made your mark.

How counting works

Counting will happen at each voting station immediately after the conclusion of voting on Wednesday. All votes cast over the course of the special voting days and election day will be counted together.

Votes can be counted at a central place if this will help ensure free and fair elections or the votes come from a mobile voting station. In addition to the voting station officials, the IEC can employ counting officials to assist with counting. All counting officials will work in shifts allocated by the presiding officer.

The following people are allowed in the counting station during counting:

* The counting officer.

* Counting officials.

* Accredited observers.

* Accredited party agents.

* People authorised by the IEC.

The counting process unfolds in the presence of observers and party agents and independent candidate agents, who will check that the counting is done correctly and fairly:

Each voting station is issued with two or three results slips, depending on whether it is in a local or metro council.

The presiding officer becomes the counting officer and the deputy presiding officer becomes the deputy counting officer. The voting station’s doors are locked and no one may leave or enter.

Cellphones are switched off, except that of the counting officer.

The numbered and sealed ballot boxes are opened. The ballots are unfolded, sorted and reconciled by election officials.

Ballots are counted, checked and bundled, and the recorded votes are entered onto a results slip.

The recorded votes are entered onto both results slips (in duplicate) by the counting officer and signed off by the deputy counting officer, in the presence of at least two party agents.

These party agents must then also affix their signatures to the results slips.

The ballots are then placed back in the ballot boxes, which are resealed and kept in storage for six months after the election in the event of any queries and challenges. One results slip is sealed in a tamper-evident bag and sent to the municipal electoral office, where the results are verified and scanned, captured and transmitted to the IEC’s central results system.

The other copy of the results slip is displayed outside the door of the voting station. Only the IEC has the legal authority to announce the election results.

This is to ensure that all objections are addressed by it prior to the final result announcement. It will then determine the seat calculation and seat allocation and announce the results within seven days.

Throughout the voting and counting process, any voter or agent can lodge an objection to any alleged irregularity at a voting station that could affect the results, and a record is kept of these objections.

These are dealt with directly by the commission, which must make a decision within three days of receiving the objection.

Any person not satisfied with that decision can appeal to the Electoral Court, which has the status of a high court.

By when should we get the results?

Within seven days. – Information provided by the IEC