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The democratic transition in South Africa was accompanied by large-scale institutional re-engineering at all levels of government. This was an extremely complex process in local government, where a racially fragmented system of municipalities underwent extensive reorganisation. Despite this, historical patterns of settlement based on race have entrenched socio-economic inequalities and highly uneven experiences of local democracy. Against this backdrop, this paper investigates the differing roles of ward councillors. It examines a stratified sample of low-, mixed- and high-income wards in the City of Cape Town, and finds general yet qualified support for a view that ward councillor roles are conditioned by the socio-economic character of the areas they represent. In broad terms, councillors in low-income wards play a service broker and conflict mitigator role; councillors in mixed-income wards act as reconcilers and integrators; and councillors in high-income wards perform a placeholder and maintainer role.
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