Municipalities, which govern on a four-year term basis, run local affairs subject to national and provincial legislation, but the latter may not compromise or impede a municipality's right to exercise its powers or perform its functions.
In line with the principles of co-operative government, national and provincial government must support and strengthen municipalities' capacity to manage their own affairs.
Further strengthening local government is the provision that legislation passed by the higher bodies must be published before being introduced to allow local interests the opportunity to make representations. The South African Local Government Association has a mandate to transform local government and to represent its interests at provincial and national level.
Members of municipal councils are elected every four years on the basis of the relevant portion of the national common voters' roll. South Africa has 284 municipalities, divided into three categories.
Metropolitan municipalities, also known as Unicities, have exclusive municipal executive and legislative authority in their areas. There are six of these: Cape Town, Durban, East Rand, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Port Elizabeth. They have a choice of two types of executive systems: the mayoral executive system, and the collective executive committee.
District and local councils
District and local councils are interdependent and involve a division of powers. A district council has municipal executive and legislative authority over a large area, its primary responsibility being district-wide planning and capacity-building. Within a district council's area are individual local councils which share their municipal authority with the district council under which they fall.