Every five years, South Africans head to the polls in municipal elections. However, the past municipal election has featured more prominently than previous municipal elections. Party leaders are campaigning in local municipalities to secure the vote. But, it’s not national party leaders that shine in municipal elections; instead, it’s the local ward councillors, mayoral candidates, and your municipality’s council that matter in municipal elections. So, if you intend to participate in the 2026 South African municipal elections, this is everything you need to know before casting your vote.
What is the Purpose of Municipal Elections?
The most misunderstood aspect of municipal elections, especially for younger or inexperienced voters, is the role of municipal elections in South Africa.
As previously mentioned, municipal – or commonly referred to as local government – elections determine who your ward councillors will be.
So, when you cast your ballot at your local voting station, you will be voting for a ward councillor in addition to the party that you want to be leading in your municipality.
The South African municipal elections have the most impact on your daily life; since your local councillor and mayor are responsible for service delivery and budget allocation in your area.
So, while you may see party leaders like John Steenhuisen of the DA and President Cyril Ramaphosa for the ANC campaigning, these are not the people you’re voting into power in this election. In light of this, it’s important to know:
- Mayoral candidates for each party contesting municipal elections
- Ward councillors contesting in your ward
And whether these people are fit and capable of doing the job.
Who Can Vote at South African Municipal Elections?
As in any South African election, only citizens – and those who are 18 years and older – can vote during the municipal elections. But, there is one significant difference between municipal elections and national elections: you can only vote at the voting station where you’re registered to vote.
In the national elections, you have the option to cast your vote even if you’re not residing in the country when the elections take place. This is not the case during municipal elections. Because you’re voting for ward councillors and municipal leaders, the function of the municipal elections is to help the community decide who should manage local government issues and concerns.
Since international voters are not residing in the ward at that time and since ward votes are not tallied at a national level, you cannot vote in the elections unless you vote at the voting station where you’ve registered to vote.
However, if you know you won’t be in your ward on election day, you can apply for a special vote to participate in the municipal elections.
When Will the South African Municipal Elections Take Place?
The municipal elections have been set for Monday 1 November 2026, which has been declared a public holiday to enable all South Africans to make it to their voting stations. All voting stations will be open from 7 am and 9 pm on voting day.
How To Vote and How To Check your Registration
Before you make your way to your voting station, be sure you have the correct documentation. The most important document needed on voting day is your ID document.
If you don’t have a green barcoded ID or smart ID card, you’ll need to get a temporary ID from home affairs before being able to vote.
Therefore, if you’ve lost your ID, you can apply for a Temporary Identification Certification at home affairs, which costs R70.
Checking Your Registration Details Online
To vote in the municipal elections, you can only cast your ballot at the voting station where you registered. If you’ve moved since the previous elections or have not reviewed your details for some time, you can do this online. Follow the steps below to check your registration details and determine if you’re registered at the correct voting station.
Step 1: Visit the IEC website
To check that the details the IEC has on its database are correct, you will need to visit the IEC website. On the home page, you can click on “Check my registration details
Step 2: Input your Details
After being redirected to the voter information page, you will be required to input your 13-digit ID number. After which, you will have access to your voter registration details, including your registration status, voting station, and ward details.
Step 3: Determine if You Should Still Be Voting at Your Registered Voting Station
If your registered details – including your address – are not correct, you may have to vote at a different voting station. To check where your voting station is, input your full address into the voting station finder, which you can access here.
Then, if your voting station has changed according to the voting station finder, you will need to visit your local IEC office to update your details and change your voting station.
What Happens on Election Day?
Come election day; you will need to visit your voting station and show your ID document to the voting officer, who will check that you are on the registry for that voting station. Depending on whether you are a metropolitan or local council voter you will be given either two or three ballot papers.
Ward Councillor: On this ballot, you will vote for a ward councillor, the person you want to lead your ward. The person who receives the most ward councillor votes becomes the ward councillor.
Proportional Representation: On this ballot, you vote for a political party contesting the metro council. These votes are tallied, and then parties are given seats at the metro council according to how many votes they received.
Local Council Voters:
In addition to the above-mentioned ballots, local council voters will also receive a third ballot.
The third ballot determines how district council seats will be proportioned.
Proportional Representation (District Council): On this ballot, you will vote for a political party contesting the district council. These votes are tallied, and then parties are given seats at the district council according to how many votes they received.
Do You Need to be Vaccinated to Vote?
Besides all the most basic information you need to know to vote in the municipal elections, the 2022 municipal elections are unique because the world is currently going through a pandemic.
Most recently, there has been so much confusion regarding whether you’ll need to present a vaccine certificate when you vote. The short answer is that you don’t need to provide proof of vaccination or be vaccinated to vote in the South African municipal elections. However, social distancing and masks are still mandatory at voting stations.
If you have any other questions about voting in the local government elections, you can visit the IECs website, where you’ll be able to access more voter educational material.