Rescaling municipal governance amidst political competition in Gauteng: Sedibeng’s proposed re-demarcation

In 2011, the Gauteng Provincial Government proposed that Sedibeng, a Category C district municipality located in the province, should be restructured. Sedibeng District Municipality is a two-tier structure that consists of three Category B local municipalities: Emfuleni, Midvaal and Lesedi. The proposal was for Emfuleni and Midvaal to be merged into a single-tier Category A metropolitan government, and for Lesedi to be incorporated into the neighbouring metropolitan municipality of Ekurhuleni. Although the original proposal had anticipated that these changes would happen after the 2016 local elections, the issue remains unresolved due largely to fierce party-political opposition and vociferous protests against it on the ground.

Using the Sedibeng case, this Occasional Paper examines the dynamics, particularities, peculiarities and challenges of re-demarcating the Gauteng City-Region.

While informed by technical reasons, the arguments for and against the merger have tended to gravitate towards party-political rationales for why the re-demarcation should or should not go ahead. Although these debates raise important merits and demerits for the proposal, they are difficult to disentangle from the interests of those whose fortunes would be changed by restructuring. These competing claims have not only had implications for the governance of Sedibeng’s municipalities but have also affected ostensibly non-party-political institutions directly and indirectly involved in the re-demarcation issue. In this environment, municipal demarcation risks being held hostage by party politics, with stakeholders such as political parties using any means at their disposal to have things go their way, including by scapegoating the Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB).

The case of Sedibeng presents important lessons about attempts to make post-transition local government – and mechanisms for determining its configuration – work in Gauteng. It also highlights the need for strengthening and revising demarcation-related legislation. How can we ensure that the MDB functions effectively with respect to its primary goals?


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