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Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB) Webinar | Ward Delimitation Process for the 2021 local Government Elections




Posted: 30 June 2021

The Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on citizen engagement and stakeholder consultations in the ward delimitation process for the 2021 local government elections came into sharp focus during a webinar convened by the Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB) on Tuesday, 22 June 2021.

The MDB, an independent authority responsible for the determination of municipal boundaries, brought together stakeholders within and outside the local government sector for a virtual discussion that unpacked the ward delimitation process and shared some of the lessons learnt, ahead of the 2021 local government elections.

Public consultations in the context of Covid-19

It was explained that the MDB had to adapt its public consultation processes with communities on the draft wards in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.  

The public consultation process commenced in February 2020 in Mpumalanga, the Eastern Cape, the Western Cape, and Gauteng. The continuation of this process, which was due to conclude in April 2020, was cancelled due to the declaration of a national state of disaster in March. At that time, only 109 out of 213 municipalities had already been visited.

In response to this, the MDB revised the ward delimitation programme. It was then agreed with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) that the date of final handover of final wards should be revised from August 2020 to November 2020.

Some of the measures used to complete this process included virtual meetings with the outstanding 104 municipalities, inviting written submissions from community members on how their wards should be configured and conducting public awareness and education programmes through newspapers, radio, television and social media. 

All this to meet the requirements for meaningful engagement and participation in the ward delimitation process in light of the prevailing circumstances.  

“Due to the lockdown, we could not access more communities for awareness and community participation. However, attempts were made to reach as many people via newspapers, community radio, television, social media and other means. I must indicate that this was the best possible solution,” explained Mbali Myeni, MDB Deputy Chairperson. 

Written submissions process

MDB Chief Operating Officer (COO) Aluwani Ramagadza, outlined the written submissions process, which was made available for members of the public and other stakeholders that could not be consulted through physical contact meetings on how their wards should be configured. 

He explained that there were two closing dates for this process, one was the 31st May 2020 for all municipalities consulted before the lockdown and 31st July 2020 for the municipalities that were not consulted through physical meetings.

“Overall the MDB received 1206 submissions as at the end of the periods of submissions. Of the 1206 submissions received, 368 (30,5%) were rejected and 838 (69,5%) were accepted and thus taken to the publication (Provincial gazettes) for objections,” said Ramagadza

Ramagadza explained that at the end of the objection period, a total of 1465 objections were received. Thereafter, the MDB considered all objections and confirmed and varied wards for all municipalities in the country. 90% of the 4468 wards were confirmed as published and 10% of those were varied.

In the final analysis, the MDB, on 1 December 2020, handed over 4468 ward boundaries to the IEC to prepare for the local government elections in 2021. The total number of wards that had to be delimited increased from 4392 for the 2016 local government elections to 4468 for the 2021 municipal elections, representing an increase of 76 wards in the country. 

MDB Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Muthotho Sigidi explained how the Board had to innovate and adapt by transitioning from in-person engagement with stakeholders to other means that would still meet the requirements for meaningful public consultation and participation on the ward delimitation process. 

“We must indicate that we were not really prepared but we had to adjust immediately after the declaration of the disaster to move into virtual platforms for consultations.” 

Challenges and lessons learned 

  • Due to the lockdown, the MDB could not physically access more communities for awareness and meaningful participation, however, attempts were made to reach as many people via newspapers, radio, television, social media and other means.
  • A need for cooperation between the MDB and municipalities in ensuring that the communities are engaged earlier in the ward delimitation process. Information packs are distributed early to municipalities, but not reaching their intended communities.
  • Some stakeholders or public members not submitting proposals that meet the criteria for delimitation and insisting that the MDB should implement them.
  • The use of the wards as units of service delivery not aligning to the legislative objective of wards created for purposes of elections, thus resulting in misunderstandings with communities. 



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