Share this article

How does it work – to answer this question, the council Speaker has published a guide for residents to explain the inner workings of the City.
THE council Speaker wants people to understand how the City works, and has issued a communique explaining the council’s processes and procedures.


Council speaker Constance BapelaCouncil Speaker Constance BapelaIn her message, Constance Bapela explains the City’s governance model, which has two separate functions – the executive and the legislative. The legislative function is the political administration and is led by Bapela. It sits for monthly meetings to discuss council matters.

“The Speaker is strongly supported by the chief Whip, whose responsibility is to build relationships among the various political parties and ensure a well-oiled governing party,” explains the council spokesperson, Virgil James.

The council comprises the cabinet or executive committee, which co-ordinates the making of policies and by-laws and oversees implementation by all departments. James says its key role “in its current structure is to focus on legislative, participatory and oversight roles. Its principal and most substantive role is therefore that of a lawmaker.”

Its other role is to facilitate political debate and discussion.

The executive work of the council is co-ordinated by the executive mayor, who is elected by the council to provide a strategic direction for the municipality. The mayor is assisted by an executive or mayoral committee made up of 10 councillors.

“The mayoral committee is responsible for individual portfolios and report directly to him,” says James.

City manager
A municipal administration headed by the City manager and other officials does the actual work of the municipality. The City manager is responsible for employing staff and co-ordinating them to implement all programmes approved by the council. The mayor and his executive oversee the work of the City manager and department heads.

Each year, the council passes a budget and decides on development plans and service delivery for the municipality.

The municipal manager is the municipality’s chief accounting officer. “The City manager is in turn supported by executive directors who are responsible for 13 individual City departments for the delivery of key public services to residents,” James explains.

There are section 79 portfolio committees which have an oversight role over different departments, and report back to the council. Municipal decisions are taken in the council, and officials and staff are employed by the municipality to implement those decisions.

It has the authority to pass by-laws, approve budgets and development plans, impose rates and other taxes, charge service fees for the use of municipal services like water and electricity, impose fines for anyone who breaks municipal by-laws or regulations, and borrow money to sustain its projects and activities.

Standing committees
James says there are also standing committees that deal only with council matters. “Unlike Section 79 committees, standing committees have delegated decision-making powers relating specifically to the legislature and are required to submit reports to the council,” he explains.

Some of the standing committees are petitions and public participation, municipal public accounts, audit, programming, ethics and rules.

In addition, the City runs about 15 entities, of which it is the sole proprietor. These are called municipal-owned entities and are charged with providing basic services to all communities. These include providing electricity, water and sanitation for all households; installing storm water systems; providing refuse removal services; fire fighting; health services; taking decisions around land use; managing municipal roads and public transport; controlling informal trading, abattoirs and fresh food markets; and administering parks and recreational areas, libraries and other amenities, including local tourism.

“These are the familiar City Power, Johannesburg Water, Joburg Theatre, Joburg Tourism Company, City Parks and others,” he says.

Johannesburg is divided into seven administrative regions, and each region has an executive director who co-ordinates service delivery and urban management matters. “Each region with its unique character and dynamics has an office with convenient access to many City services.”

Nationally, municipalities are represented in the National Council of Provinces by the South African Local Government Association (Salga). Salga also sits as the employer in the South African Local Government Bargaining Council.

There are three types of municipality in South Africa: metropolitan, local and district. Johannesburg is a metropolitan municipality. Half its councillors are elected through a proportional representation ballot, where voters vote for a party. The other half are elected as ward councillors by residents in each ward.

“Joburg, a City where community development, personal growth and social mobility are enhanced so that challenges of poverty, vulnerability, inequality and social exclusion are fundamentally addressed,” James says.

Related stories:

Mayor names committee
Zuma lauds municipalities
Let’s talk, says mayor
Growth plan under microscope
City focuses on stability
Council approves delivery plan
Residents help draft City’s growth plans
City finances are balanced