A summary of the Municipal Structures Amendment Bill 2024

About 70 municipalities are governed through coalition governments. Coalition governments are formed between parties and interests when no single political party holds a majority of seats on the council.

Research indicates that coalition governments present additional governance challenges to effective service delivery in municipalities. Coalition-led municipalities often experience a higher degree of political volatility and stalemates in council. Conflict between parties and interests in municipal councils, where no political party has a majority of the seats, has also contributed to the wastage of scarce resources through costly litigation.  

Coalition agreements frequently lack persuasive value and are often abandoned by coalition partners when it is politically expedient, resulting in shifts in alliances, the unseating of political office-bearers, and the formation of new coalitions. De Visser has argued that adopting certain law reforms to strengthen the institutional environment of municipalities can positively impact coalition governance. 

The Local Government: Municipal Structures Amendment Bill of 2024 (Bill) makes provision for coalition governments and introduces several changes to facilitate stable coalition governance in municipalities. This article provides a summary of the Bill.

Conversion to the collective executive system

Section 12A of the Bill mandates that municipalities with an executive mayor, in which no single party holds a majority of seats on the council, must be changed to a collective executive committee system by means of notice by the MEC for Local Government. This approach can reduce the emphasis coalition partners often place on the office of the executive mayor, promote governance by consensus in the executive and foster collegiality among the various coalition partners. In a collective executive committee, all major political parties are represented in accordance to their representation on the council. The Committee is directly accountable to the council, which can enhance governance, transparency and collaboration. The executive committee system also offers more stability and protection to coalitions because when the mayor vacates office, the other committee members remain in office. In an executive mayor system, the entire mayoral committee vacates office when the executive mayor is dismissed.

Transparent voting and the tabling of motions of no confidence every 2 years

Currently, elections for office-bearers must be conducted by secret ballot. Motions of no confidence are often also conducted by secret ballot. The secret ballot has been criticised for various reasons, including its impact on political parties’ ability to enforce party discipline and its potential to encourage vote-buying, bribes and other backroom dealings. A notable example is the Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality, where ActionSA sought to subject their members to lie detector tests to determine which member did not vote according to the party’s instructions.  This incident highlights the challenges associated with the secret ballot in maintaining intra-party cohesion and stability.

The Bill mandates that the election or removal of the Speaker, whip, executive mayor or deputy executive mayor, and any member of the executive committee to be conducted by show of hands. Additionally, the removal of these political office-bearers is made subject to the condition that two years must have passed since their election into office. However, the Bill provides for their removal at any time if they have committed a serious breach of the Constitution or the law, engaged in serious misconduct, or are unable to perform their functions effectively. Such removal requires prior notice to be given to the Speaker of council.

Parties and interests may enter binding coalition agreements

The Bill defines a coalition agreement as “a written agreement negotiated between parties that form a coalition government in a municipality in which no political party has a majority of seats on the council”. Section 43(4)(a) of the Bill stipulates that two or more political parties may enter into a binding coalition agreement, which must be made public. This provision aims to encourage parties and interests to formalise their coalitions and solidify their compromises in a written document and to make it available for public consumption akin to electoral manifestos. However, political parties retain the discretion to decide if they want to enter into binding coalition agreements.

The introduction of a 1% electoral threshold

The current absence of any electoral threshold has resulted in many parties, big and small, entering the council. The advantage of the absence of such a threshold is that it reduces the wastage of votes as a result of a party not meeting the threshold to win a seat. However, fragmentation in the council can make it difficult for a coalition to accommodate the diverse interests of the coalition partners, especially in smaller municipalities where there are fewer trade-offs and smaller budgets. Electoral thresholds serve a legitimate governmental purpose by limiting the number of parties that gain entry to the municipal council, thus reducing fragmentation and promoting stability. Item 13 of Schedule 1 of the Bill mandates that a party must obtain a minimum of one percent of the valid votes cast to qualify for a seat on the council. Parties that do not meet the 1 percent threshold will be eliminated from all further calculations for the allocation of seats on the council. This provision aims to enhance governance in the council by ensuring that only parties with adequate voter support are represented in the council.

Call for public comments

Members of the public wishing to comment on the Bill can submit written comments on or before 5 July 2024 either by email (comments.coalitionbill@cogta.gov.za) or post to:

             Director General

             For the attention: Mr Nhlamulo Mathye

             Department of Cooperative Governance

             Private Bag X804




The Local Government: Municipal Structures Amendment Bill of 2024 represents a significant step towards addressing critical governance challenges in coalition-led municipalities in South Africa. The proposed reforms have the potential to foster stability, transparency and effective service delivery. Additionally, the Bill offers a pathway to reduce political volatility and promote continued cooperation and collaboration among coalition partners.

By Jennica Beukes, Legal practitioner and Doctoral Researcher

© Dullah Omar Institute
Privacy Policy | Terms & Conditions

| DOI Constitution

© 2021 Dullah Omar Institute

CMS Website by Juizi