The 2016 local government elections: The point where South Africa changed course?

In August 2016, local government elections were held in South Africa, something that is of direct relevance to many of ICLD’s partners. Dr Andrew Siddle has analyzed the elections on behalf of the ICLD. The elections have been described as “the point at which South Africa changed course,” but it remains to be seen just how significant the change is.

The recent local government elections in South Africa have been described as the most important elections to be held at any level since the first democratic elections for the national and provincial governments in 1994. The elections came at a time of turmoil in the country. Whilst it might have been hoped that the focus would have been on local issues, the political climate was such that they tended to be overshadowed by national issues. As such, the elections came to be seen as a test for government as a whole.

It is not surprising, therefore, that whilst significant consequences of the elections will be felt at the local level, they have had, and will continue to have, ramifications in national politics as well. The outcomes of the elections were predicted in some respects, but were surprising in others. The general consensus is that the political landscape has changed to an extent which was not anticipated, presenting new opportunities as well as a range of difficulties which will demand political skill and maturity of the kind that has hitherto often been lacking.

The paper aims to provide an understanding of the outcome of the elections and of some of the crucial issues which will dictate how local governance will play out in the future.

Full research report