South African local and municipal governments

The largest metropolitan areas are governed by metropolitan municipalities, while the rest of the country is divided into district municipalities, each of which consists of several local municipalities. Since the boundary reform at the time of the municipal election of 3 August 2016 there are eight metropolitan municipalities, 44 district municipalities and 205 local municipalities.

(Image: South African Local Government Association (SALGA))

Local government and municipalities

Local government in South Africa administers cities and smaller regions. These are known as municipalities. There are three categories of municipality.

Metropolitan municipalities – defined as category A – govern the major city regions.

District municipalities, category C, are for wider areas outside the cities, like counties in the US and UK.

Districts are further divided into local municipalities, category B.

Chapter 7 of the Constitution explains the different categories:

  • Category A – Metropolitan: A municipality that has exclusive municipal executive and legislative authority in its area.
  • Category B – Local: A municipality that shares municipal executive and legislative authority in its area with a category C municipality within whose area it falls.
  • Category C – District: A municipality that has municipal executive and legislative authority in an area that includes more than one municipality.



South African municipalities, grouped by province (Image: Paul Berkowitz Research)

The country has 278 municipalities: eight metropolitan, 44 district and 226 local.

Metropoles have a choice between two types of government: the mayoral executive system where the mayor has the authority, or the collective executive committee system.

Metropolitan municipalities in South Africa

*Updated: 6 November 2015

Source: South African Government Communication and Information System

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