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Zanu opposed to devolution: HRT



PERENNIAL turf wars over the control of devolution funds have not only exposed the deep-seated mistrust between local authorities and central government, but also laid bare Zanu PF’s reluctance to pursue the principle and letter of the decentralisation agenda, an official from the Harare Residents Trust (HRT) has said.


Accusations and counter-accusations have become the order of the day as most local authorities and central government blame each other for the appalling service delivery in most councils.

Before the turn of the millennium, the ruling party, which ran a de facto one-party state, enjoyed control of most local authorities. A rise in opposition politics after 2000 then weakened Zanu PF’s stronghold.

The centralisation of power by the ruling elites faced severe criticism, prompting political actors involved in the constitution-making process of 2013 to push for devolution.

Analysts say Zanu PF also treats devolution with suspicion in some parts of the country, notably Matabeleland and the Midlands where an estimated 20 000 people were killed in genocidal state-sponsored pogroms in the 1980s.

Instead of the constitutionally stipulated devolution, the government is pushing for a curious form of de-concentration which will enable it to retain full control.

The 2013 constitution maintains a unitary form of government, which means central government remains the main centre of power, although it devolves some power to lower structures.

In the old Lancaster House constitution, the levels of government were horizontal and were called “levels of administration”; each level was defined as an institutional setting that supports, administratively, the implementation of governmental policies in the regions, at the local level. These levels of administration did not make policies, but only implemented them.
Zimbabwe currently has 10 ministers of state responsible for provincial affairs and devolution. The southern African nation has 1 958 wards, 32 urban local authorities, 60 rural district councils. Critics say in all these areas, central government has dictated the programming done by local authorities.

HRT executive director Precious Shumba (pictured) told journalists attending the Media Institute for Southern Africa-Harare Advocacy Committee meeting that President Emmerson Mnangagwa is not ready to give local authorities the autonomy to run the devolution agenda.

“Their (Zanu PF) emphasis emanated from the desire of a one-party state,” Shumba said.
“The people who have the electoral mandate to implement devolution were opposed to the concept of devolution in the constitution-making process. The people who wanted devolution to be implemented are not in government. They are in the opposition.

“Since 2013, August to the present, the government has only done token interventions in respect of devolution. Initially they produced their Vision 2030 document, they said devolution and decentralisation. In September 2018, they produced what they called Devolution and Decentralisation Policy. If you read through that policy, you will appreciate that the government of Zimbabwe does not desire to implement devolution. It says the President of Zimbabwe is the chairperson  of the cabinet committee for the implementation of devolution.

“They say the local authorities are the people who provide services, but in this instance local authorities are directed, but they don’t even contract who builds that clinic, they don’t contract who builds that school. There is no devolution like that.”

Harare Chamber of Small and Medium Enterprises and projects manager at Harare Informal Traders’ Council Agnes Mangunje said local authorities need efficient internal controls to tackle corruption which is currently choking service delivery. She added that citizens’ participation is also critical in ensuring that devolution succeeds.

“I really disagree to a certain extent that there is no devolution. We can’t say there is no devolution,” Mangunje said.

“Let us have the power of the people speaking and then we realise what devolution is doing.”
According to a study by the Zimbabwe Economic Policy Analysis and Research Unit (Zeparu), the country should enact laws which align with the constitutional provisions on devolution.

The framework for devolution is enshrined in section 264 of the constitution of Zimbabwe and other subsidiary legislation such the Urban Council Act (Chapter 29:15), Rural Councils Act (Chapter 29:13), Regional and Town and Country Planning Act (Chapter 29: 12), Rural Councils and Administration Act (Chapter 29:11) which need to be reviewed and amended to align with the constitution.

Key success factors for devolution, the study revealed, are clarity of roles and responsibilities; adequacy of financial resources, citizen participation, adequacy of human resources, strong systems, political, translation of information pertaining to devolution and functional intergovernmental fiscal transfers framework.

“One of the key policy priorities for the ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing linked to devolution between 2020 and 2022 is that of capacity building of local authorities,” reads the Zeparu report titled Towards Successful Implementation of Devolution.

“Government has adopted gradualist approach as opposed to the big-bang approach to implementing devolution. Requisite institutional reforms are also being implemented concurrently with the broader implementation of devolution.

“There is need to expedite the drafting of enabling subsidiary legislation on devolution as stipulated in the constitution of Zimbabwe. Institutional capacity gaps may adversely affect the implementation of devolution. There is need for an exercise to map the institutional capacity gaps within specific provinces or local authorities including missing institutions. The mapping exercise will inform a comprehensive capacity building (both skills enhancement and institutional strengthening) programme.”

Experts say decentralisation started as early as in 1883. In 1884-1885 there was de-concentration of power to lower tiers of government through creation of district administrators (DAs).

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