Zimbabwe Devolution Campaign Calls for Real Devolution

The Zimbabwe Devolution Campaign, a coalition of Civic Society Organizations and Residents Associations in Zimbabwe, is deeply concerned with the Government’s reluctance to devolve power and functions to lower tiers of government as is stipulated in the Constitution of Zimbabwe.

While we acknowledge the prioritization of the devolution agenda by the 2nd Republic, the trajectory and the nature of devolution in the proposed legislation to effect devolution and emerging practice within our local governance system fall short from the devolution enshrined in Chapter 14 of the Constitution as envisaged by citizens.

We are gravely concerned that the recent events that include the appointment of the local government board and the intention to impose an Inter-ministerial “Taskforce” to monitor urban local authorities are a clear violation of the principle of self-governance by local authorities as is provided for by the Constitution.

Citizens of Zimbabwe had pinned hopes on the Constitution as a foundation of establishing and retaining a democratic society. The path that has been taken by the Government to mutilate constitutional provisions that keep the executive powers checked is not healthy in any democratic society.

We note with deep sadness, that the same constitution is now a victim of politically motivated constitutional amendments 1 and 2 that serve to re-centralize power into the hands of the political elite contrary to the letter and spirit of devolution. Apart from being unpatriotic, the move is not good for the country and a betrayal of the people of Zimbabwe.

We assert that the rot and incapacitation within our local authorities (both urban and rural) is partly linked to interference by the central government in the management and running of these local authorities.

In addition to that, the stripping of revenue streams of local authorities by central government has further compromised the capacity of these local authorities to effectively deliver services. A clear example is the ZINARA takeover of vehicle licensing from local authorities, which left local authorities being burdened with an unfunded mandate to maintain local roads.

The Government of Zimbabwe cannot celebrate the paltry conditional funds it is disbursing to local authorities and claim that these are “devolution” funds. Once they are conditional, they become grants and not devolution funds. In any case they have fallen below the constitutional prescription of at least 5% since their disbursement from 2019 to date!

Devolution funds are a constitutional obligation in terms of section 301 of the Constitution and there is a need to develop a clear distribution framework that is transparent and gazetted for all stakeholders to exercise their right to hold government and local authorities to account on the use of such funds.

Furthermore, we strongly discourage politicization of service delivery and reaffirm that the funds disbursed by the government to local authorities is taxpayers’ money and those funds should not carry a political party tag.

We expect the central government to strengthen and capacitate local authorities than taking over their constitutional mandate. Section 276 (1) gives local authorities the right to govern on their own initiative the affairs of the people within their jurisdiction and they have “all the powers to do so.”

We stand guided by the supreme law of the land which states that local authorities are managed by councils composed by Councilors and any other arrangement outside these provisions is unconstitutional.

We believe that devolution is a catalyst to improved service delivery and therefore we call for meaningful devolution of governmental powers and functions to sub national and lower tiers of government.

We recommend the following;

  • The need for 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
  • Legal and institutional frameworks that facilitate operationalization of devolution must conform to the principles of devolution envisaged in Chapter 14 of the constitution. Some provisions of the Provincial and Metropolitan Councils Administration Bill are not compatible with the constitution.
  • So early in the life of our constitution, the proposed amendments should be halted forthwith or subjected to a national referendum in the spirit of promoting democracy and self-governance reflective of the will of the majority of Zimbabweans as expressed in the extant Constitution.
  • The inter-ministerial cabinet committee which will oversee devolution is inaccessible to the public and central government cannot be an independent arbiter in a process of sharing power with other tiers where it is an interested party. We call for an independent body to preside over devolution implementation as this facilitates a more inclusive process which will gain greater public support.
  • 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 mandate.
  • Recruitment of senior officials of local authorities and provincial councils should be done at the local level and not through an appointed local government board.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Source: Combined Harare Residents Association

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