With the recent wave of democratisation in Sub-Saharan Africa a new interest in elected local councils has appeared. The importance of elected local governments in promoting democracy is now emphasised by both national actors and the international community. It is also increasingly underlined by research, both from the field of development theory/politics and from comparative research on democratisation processes. In this paper these broader arguments will be narrowed down to a theoretical focus on local electoral rules and the geographical area of the countries of Southern Africa. The paper presents data for all Southern African countries on the types of elected bodies at sub-national level of government, the composition of local councils, the regularity and simultaneity of local and national elections, the electoral systems and the rules governing candidature at the local level. Electoral rules are just one set of institutions that matter in local politics, and there is no doubt that other variables (such as local administration, resource allocation or capacity-building) are equally important. But the assumption is that local electoral institutions are relevant for the democratisation of both local and national politics, and should thus merit closer scrutiny. The comparative study of different countries offers additional insights with regard to similarities or specific constraints and problems that countries face in organising local elections and the institutional solutions that they eventually opted for. The paper also explores some likely consequences and impacts of these (differing) rules on the political process of these countries and highlight several issues that might be of relevance for the debate about the viability and consolidation of democratic politics in the region, both at local and national level.