Metropolitan municipality (South Africa)

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In South Africa, a metropolitan municipality (Tswana: mmasepala wa toropokgolo; Sotho: masepala wa metropholithene; Northern Sotho: mmasepala wa metropholithene; Afrikaans: metropolitaanse munisipaliteit; Zulu: umasipala wedolobhakazi; Southern Ndebele: umasipaladi wedorobha elikhulu; Xhosa: umasipala ombaxa; Swazi: umkhandludolobha welidolobha lelikhulu; Venda: masipala wa ḓorobo khulwane; Tsonga: masipala wa dorobankulu) or Category A municipality is a municipality which executes all the functions of local government for a city or conurbation. This is by contrast to areas which are primarily rural, where the local government is divided into district municipalities and local municipalities.

The Constitution, section 155.1.a, defines "Category A" municipalities.[1] In the Municipal Structures Act it is laid out that this type of local government is to be used for conurbations, "centre[s] of economic activity", areas "for which integrated development planning is desirable", and areas with "strong interdependent social and economic linkages".[2]

The metropolitan municipality is similar to the consolidated city-county in the USA, although a South African metropolitan municipality is created by notice of the provincial government, not by agreement between district and local municipalities.


Metropolitan municipalities were brought about so that cities could be governed as single entities.[3] This had not been possible under the fragmented local government structures of apartheid. A key demand of anti-apartheid civics in the 1980s was for 'one city, one tax base' in order to facilitate distribution of funds to areas of highest need.[4] Local government reform after apartheid produced six Transitional Metropolitan Councils following the 1995/6 local government elections. These were characterized by a two-tier structure.[5] [6] From 2000, these six Metropolitan Councils were restructured into their final single-tier form. In 2011, Buffalo City (East London) and Mangaung (Bloemfontein) were added to the category of metropolitan municipality.[7]

List of metropolitan municipalities

Name Code Province Seat Area
Pop. density
(per km²)
Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality BUF Eastern Cape East London 2,536 755,200 297.8
City of Cape Town Metropolitan Municipality CPT Western Cape Cape Town 2,460 3,740,026 1,520.3
City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality JHB Gauteng Johannesburg 1,645 4,434,827 2,695.9
City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality TSH Gauteng Pretoria 6,345 2,921,488 460.4
Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality EKU Gauteng Germiston 1,924 3,178,470 1,652.0
eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality ETH KwaZulu-Natal Durban 2,292 3,442,361 1,501.9
Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality MAN Free State Bloemfontein 6,284 747,431 118.9
Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality NMA Eastern Cape Port Elizabeth 1,959 1,152,115 588.1


  1. Constitution of South Africa
  2. Municipal Structures Act
  3. Mabin, Alan (2006) Local government in South Africa’s larger cities. In U. Pillay, R. Tomlinson, & J. du Toit (Eds.) Democracy and delivery: urban policy in South Africa (pp. 135-156). Cape Town: HSRC.
  4. Mark Swilling, Richard Humphries and Khehal Shubane (eds) Apartheid city in Transition. Cape Town: Oxford University Press
  5. van Donk, Mirjam and Edgar Pieterse (2006) ‘Reflections on the design of a post-apartheid system of (urban) local government’ in Udesh Pillay; Richard Tomlinson; Jacques du Toit (eds.) Democracy and Delivery: Urban Policy in South Africa. Cape Town HSRC Press
  6. Cameron, Robert (2006) Local government boundary reorganization. In Udesh Pillay, Richard Tomlinson, Jacques du Toit (eds.) Democracy and Delivery: Urban Policy in South Africa. Cape Town HSRC Press pp 76-106
  7. Lynelle John and Landiwe Mahlangu (2011) Metros in SA: Debate on national policy choices. Mail and Guardian. 21 June 2011.
  8. "Census 2011: Municipal Fact Sheet" (PDF). Statistics South Africa. 2012. Retrieved 13 December 2012.
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