Devolution key to success of decentralization exercise

The much hyped decentralization exercise by the Harare City Council (HCC) has since its launch in February 2017, failed to produce the desired results with the HCC blaming manpower shortage for stalling the exercise.

The HCC has proposed hiring more workers to ensure the success of the decentralization exercise.

CHRA is however of the view that without proper implementation of devolution of governmental powers and responsibilities, as enshrined under Section 264 of Zimbabwe’s constitution, the decentralization exercise will continue to be a pipe dream.

Devolution, as enshrined in the Constitution, is critical “to transfer responsibilities and resources from the national government in order to establish a sound financial base for each provincial and metropolitan council and local authority”.

In this respect, CHRA notes that central government interference in the affairs of the HCC has largely retarded progress in several areas and ultimately, effective service delivery has suffered.

The central government has also unnecessarily interfered in the appointment of senior council officials thus affecting the smooth flow of affairs at HCC.

As a result of central government interference, the power of the ordinary resident to make decisions on matters affecting them has largely been limited yet the constitution is clear that the purpose of devolution is “to give powers of local governance to the people” and enable them to make decisions on matters affecting them.

Centralization of responsibilities and resources has largely been the biggest obstacle to the smooth flow of operations at HCC.

A case in point is the issues of the Zimbabwe National Roads Authority (ZINARA) which took over collection of vehicle licence fees from local councils yet continues to allocate them meager amounts for road repairs.

As a result of the meager allocations from ZINARA, most roads in Harare are in a deplorable state.

CHRA is of the view that implementation of devolution is critical to ensure the equitable sharing of local and national resources and this will enable local authorities to effectively carry out their mandate without undue interference or resource constraints.

CHRA reiterates that without proper devolution of governmental powers, the HCC decentralization exercise remains a piecemeal exercise with little capacity to deliver expected results.

We however vehemently oppose the proposal by the HCC to hire more workers as a way of ensuring success of the decentralization exercise.

At a time the council is allocating $10 million (out of $13 million collected monthly) to salaries, it is unacceptable that council would seek to recruit more workers.

Worse still, almost every worker at council, according to Harare Mayor, Ben Manyenyeni “is overpaid and council is in the business of paying salaries”

Recruiting more workers will therefore imply that service delivery will continue to suffer while the bulk of funds collected by HCC will go towards salaries.

Source: Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA)