BUSINESS DAY LIVE: Allocation for boundary changes before vote

The government will allocate R409m to facilitate municipal boundary changes approved last year, which are due to take effect before the local government elections this year, says Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. The election date has not yet been announced but is predicted to be hotly contested.

The Independent Electoral Commission of SA is on the back foot after a court ruling against it last year relating to the fairness of an election and the departure under a cloud of its former chairwoman Pansy Tlakula.

The boundary changes — a result of mergers between two or more municipalities or the incorporation of smaller councils into larger and more resilient ones — will result in the number of municipalities being reduced from 278 to 257.

Weaker municipalities are being consolidated into stronger ones to create more viable and sustainable institutions.

The current cycle of municipal boundary changes has been marked by controversy. The Democratic Alliance (DA) obtained a high court order to stall a merger between DA-run Midvaal Municipality and African National Congress-run Emfuleni.

Mr Gordhan said the municipal demarcation transition grant will be allocated between the 2016/2017 and 2017/2018 financial years and will support councils whose boundaries will change as a result of re-determinations approved by the Municipal Demarcation Board.

"The number of municipalities will be reduced… with the objective of improving their viability and sustainability," he said. "The local government allocations will be revised to take account of these boundary changes and over R400m is allocated over the next two years to assist with this transition."

The consolidation of municipalities has a huge political impact as competition for positions on election lists and councilor posts intensify. Already, the process of selecting candidates for this year’s elections in parts of the North West, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape has been tense.

Mr Gordhan also announced that a data portal would be launched to provide the public with "comparable, verified information on the financial and non-financial performance" of municipalities. Read more here