Centralisation, Devolution and Recentralisation of powers and authority in the face of deteriorating social services

This essay highlights that central government’s programme to recentralise power, authority and control of resources has found resonance in the City of Harare where the decentralisation agenda has nearly collapsed, despite the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (Number 20) Act of 2013 specifically providing for the devolution of governmental powers to lower tiers of government. The Government has been pushing to amend the Constitution through Amendment Number 2 before fully implementing the 2013 Constitution. In terms of Section 1 of the Constitution, Zimbabwe is aunitary, democratic and sovereign republic. Through this proposed amendment, the central government wishes to consolidate the powers for the President to appoint judicial officials, vice presidents even the public protector, without going through public interviews. It is argued throughout this article that a transparent implementation of devolution will remain elusive as long as there is growing consensus among the political and bureaucratic elites in the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU PF) to retain power to the centre. This article therefore highlights the different forms of decentralisation, current government efforts at implementing devolution, and the impact of delayed implementation of devolution on social service provision, with focus on the provision of water, resources allocation and budgeting. The case study of the City of Harare’s decentralisation programme is unpacked. The conclusion drawn from this submission is that our democracy is deteriorating, and institutions of service provision will be conflicted and ineffective to serve the citizens. Consequently, going forward, Zimbabwe’s media and civil society should spearhead a massive campaign of imparting knowledge to the citizenry, simplifying the concept of devolution and making a strong case for its necessity in our local socio-economic growth and development.

Source: Precious Shumba, Director, Harare Residents’ Trust

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