How do elections work in South Africa?

National and Provincial Elections

South Africa’s national and provincial elections take place every five years.

Voters vote for a political party, not individuals.

The political party then gets a share of seats in Parliament in direct proportion to the number of votes it got in the election. Each party then decides on members to fill the seats it has won.

This is called a proportional representation (PR) voting system.

National government makes and carries out laws and policies for the whole country. It is made up of:

  • Parliament led by the Speaker
  • National Government led by the President and Ministers

Provincial government makes and carries out laws and policies that affect the province only. It is made up of:

  • Legislature (the laws of the country) led by the Speaker
  • Provincial Government led by the Premier and Members of the Executive Council (MECs)

Democratic national and provincial elections have taken place every five years starting in 1994.

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Municipal Elections

Municipal elections take place every five years.

A mixed or hybrid system, making use of both the ward system and the proportional representation (PR) system, is used for municipal elections.

There are 3 types of Municipal Councils in South Africa:

  • Category A: Metropolitan Councils;
    Category B: Local Councils (LC); and
    Category C: District Councils (DC) (have executive and legislative powers in areas that include local municipalities)

For metropolitan municipalities, there are 2 types of votes in each ward:

  • Metropolitan council ward, and
    Metropolitan proportional representation.

In all local municipalities other than metropolitan municipalities, there are 3 types of votes in each ward:

  • Local council ward;
    Local council proportional representation; and
    District council proportional representation.

The first democratic municipal elections took place in 1995/6, and the first municipal elections run by the IEC took place in 2000.

To find out if you are correctly registered for the 2016 Municipal election, or need more information, email


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