Government acknowledges the role of residents associations in devolution

The Government of Zimbabwe acknowledged Residents Associations and Civil Society Organizations as critical partners and actors in the devolution implementation process in Zimbabwe.

At the National Devolution Indaba held yesterday in Harare, the Minister of Local Government and Public Works in his speech delivered by Mr Shumba, the Chief Director in the Ministry of Local Government, the Minister stated that, “Residents Associations and Civil Society Organizations have a role to play in growing the capacity of ratepayers by making them aware of their obligations and rights in order for them to make a reasonable demands from their local authorities.”

The Constitution of Zimbabwe and the Decentralization and Devolution Policy recognizes citizens as promoters of local democracy through performing a watchdog role over elected and non-elected leadership.

In sustaining discussion with the Minister of Local Government on devolution implementation in Zimbabwe, the Residents Associations and Civic Society Organizations handed over an Engagement and Position Paper to the Ministry of Local Government on citizen’s expectations and aspiration on devolution implementation.

The key common positions are;

  • Quota System to prioritize transformative participation which recognizes equal representation of women, young women, youth, people with disabilities and any other special needs groups in the composition of auxiliary structures of the provincial council and all elected and non-elected local authorities’ structures.
  • Enactment of subsidiary laws and institutional frameworks that facilitate operationalization of devolution and the Ministry must ensure the accelerated enactment of the Provincial and Metropolitan Councils Act in order to ensure there are clear devolution structures in place. The process of crafting devolution legislation must be participatory, inclusive and time-bound.
  • Devolution and democratization of development; The inter-ministerial cabinet committee is inaccessible to the general citizenry and therefore inappropriate as regards the facilitation of citizen participation necessary when embarking on a process of devolution implementation requiring state redesign with such far reaching implications on people’s daily lives. It is also reasoned that the central government cannot be an independent arbiter in a process of sharing power with other tiers where it is an interested party. It is therefore recommended that the government set up an independent body to preside over devolution implementation as this facilitates a more inclusive process which will gain greater public support. There is a need to ensure that devolution expands and democratizes spaces to facilitate effective participation of all groups in planning, formulation of by-laws/ordinances and budgeting. Devolved structures should aim to facilitate access to information for improved citizen participation, transparency and accountability. In line with the principle of democratic participation, citizens should have the final say on the recall of elected officials
  • Devolution as a cross cutting governance principle; Devolution is not only a domain of local government. It should be extended to all service delivery functions including environment, natural resources governance, health, water, roads and infrastructure and the attendant fiscal resources to mitigate against unfunded mandates.
  • Recruitment and staffing; Recruitment of senior officials of local authorities and provincial councils should be done at the local level
  • Allocation and disbursement of devolution funds; There is need for government to promulgate a law for the “at least 5%” revenue sharing formula to allow for predictability of the funds that are to be disbursed to other ties of government. Lack of clarity on the disbursement formulae will result in conflict between citizens and government and this requires enabling legislation to resolve. It would also appear that local authorities in their representative capacity of the local citizens don’t have discretion on how the funds are used. Thus, accountability sways more to the top-down than bottom-up planning framework.
  • De-concentration of Central Government; The appointment of a Provincial Minister of State and Devolution in a governance and political space presided by a Provincial Council Chairperson is duplicitous with the potential to create a role conflict and is therefore undesirable apart from being an extra burden to the tax-payer. It is therefore recommended to dissolve the post of provincial Minister of State and Devolution.

CHRA will continue to engage government, residents associations and Civic Society Organizations in promoting democratic local governance in Zimbabwe.

Source: Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA)

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