Power of the mayor

Mayors are councillors elected by members of a municipal council. How much power does your mayor have? This depends on whether your municipal council gives executive powers to the mayor, or to an executive committee that includes the mayor as well as other elected councillors. In very small municipal councils, with nine or less members, each councillor has both executive and legislative responsibilities. If executive powers are given to a committee, the mayor becomes the chair of the committee. The mayor then has the responsibility to set committee agendas and run meetings, but does not have greater power than the rest of the committee members.

If the mayor has executive powers, he or she may appoint a mayoral committee. A mayoral committee is like a cabinet at local government level. It is not obliged to hold its meetings in public or include other members of council. When the mayor is absent or unavailable, the deputy mayor takes over his or her responsibilities.

Who is the speaker?
The speaker is sometimes referred to as the chairperson of the municipal council. The speaker is elected by a majority of council members and is responsible for convening municipal council meetings, co-ordinating the meeting agenda, enforcing the Code of Conduct, regulating debates and discussions, and conducting meetings of council. The mayor or speaker is also responsible for ensuring that council documents are made public under s.1 of the Promotion of Access to Information Act.

Who is the party whip?
Each political party represented in the municipal council has a party whip. Party whips are called together by the speaker to set agendas and allocate time for meetings, determine the composition of committees, and other functions. The chief whip represents the majority party in the municipal council. Each party has its own whip on each of the municipal committees.

If your councillor is not calling or attending public meetings to report on the activities of the council, ask the party whip to take action. You have the right to be informed about the activities of council.

Who is your municipal councillor?
Municipal councillors are meant to be the link between the public and the council. They are elected in municipal or local government elections to represent their constituents.

Get to know your councillor! Councillors are required by law to support public participation and to represent the interests of their communities. They must make sure that community issues are on the municipal council agenda. Councillors are involved in ratifying decisions made by the council through voting on issues such as resolutions, policy changes, the IDP and the annual budget. They have the opportunity to represent the interests of their constituents.

Councillors are expected to:

  • communicate regularly with their constituents to get input into council decisions
  • understand and express the needs of the community
  • collect information on concerns related to municipal delivery and report back to council.

In addition your councillor must:

  • provide your community with information on the agenda, date, time and venue of council meetings
  • ensure that the concerns of the community are taken seriously and reflected in the IDP process
  • be accessible to ensure that he or she is in a position to represent their views on any topic that affects the community.

Who is your municipal manager?

The municipal manager is the head of the local government administration. He or she is appointed by the executive. The municipal manager is responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of the municipal administration and for the implementation of plans and policies.

Important provisions of the amendments to the Municipal Systems Act are:

  • Amendments to Section 56 will mean that an appointment of a municipal manager or his direct subordinate will be null and void if that person does not have the skills, expertise, competencies or qualifications that the Minister will prescribe.
  • Municipal managers are barred from holding political office in a political party, whether in a permanent, temporary or acting capacity. “Political office” refers to the position of chairperson, deputy chairperson, secretary, deputy secretary or treasurer of a political party nationally or in any province, region or other area in which the party operates.

Another section provides that a staff member of any municipality who has been dismissed for misconduct may only be re-employed in any municipality after the expiry of a prescribed period.

The new law also states that a staff member dismissed for financial misconduct, corruption or fraud, may not be re-employed for a period of ten years.