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Local government in South Africa consists of municipalities (Tswana: bommasepala; Sotho: bomasepala; Northern Sotho: bommasepala; Afrikaans: munisipaliteite; Zulu: ngomasipala; Southern Ndebele: bomasipala; Xhosa: ngoomasipala; Swazi: bomasipala; Venda: vhomasipala; Tsonga: vamasipala) of various types. The largest metropolitan areas are governed by metropolitan municipalities, while the rest of the country is divided into district municipalities, each of which consists of several local municipalities. After the municipal election of 18 May 2011 there were eight metropolitan municipalities, 44 district municipalities and 226 local municipalities. Since the boundary reform at the time of the municipal election of 3 August 2016 there are eight metropolitan municipalities, 44 district municipalities and 205 local municipalities.
Municipalities are governed by municipal councils which are elected every five years. The councils of metropolitan and local municipalities are elected by a system of mixed-member proportional representation, while the councils of district municipalities are partly elected by proportional representation and partly appointed by the councils of the constituent local municipalities.
Municipalities can belong to one of three categories: metropolitan, district and local (referred to in the constitution as categories A, B and C).
Metropolitan (or category A) municipalities represent large densely urbanised regions that encompass multiple cities and so constitute a metropolis.
There are eight metropolitan municipalities in South Africa, with the most recently created concurrently with the 2011 municipal election being the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality surrounding the metropolitan area of Bloemfontein and Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality around East London.
In areas which are primarily rural, the local government is divided into district municipalities and local municipalities.
District (or category C) municipalities are the main divisions of South Africa's provinces; they are subdivided into local (or category B) municipalities. Local municipalities share authority with the district municipality under which they fall.
Metropolitan and district municipalities form the layer of government directly below provinces. Eight metropolitan municipalities and 44 district municipalities cover the entirety of South Africa.
Local municipalities represent a subdivision of the district municipalities, and form the third layer of government. Metropolitan municipalities have no such official subdivisions, but in one case, the Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality, custom subdivisions have been established, known as administrative regions.
The final layer of subdivision of electoral regions in South Africa are electoral wards. Local and metropolitan municipalities are subdivided into electoral wards.
The South African Geographical Names Council is a statutory body that deals specifically with changing names of places in South Africa, including municipalities.