By Fortunate Muzarabani
BULAWAYO residents have been urged to familiarise themselves with devolution powers as enshrined in the Constitution and to attend public meetings to ensure improved public service delivery.
The call came from the Bulawayo Residents Association chairperson, Winos Dube, during a Regional Residents summit held end of last year.
“Good governance can be a reality if devolution is fully implemented. If our people have agents, our local authorities have the powers to effect policies that better the lives of the locals, and if natural resources benefit the locals, then there can be good governance,” Dube said.
“Good governance also comes with decentralisation. The people of Matabeleland, as well as the people from all over the country, do not have to travel all the way to Harare for specific services. This is part of devolution and part of good governance. You cannot really separate the two.”
He said issues of governance could only be addressed if residents participated more in public meetings and local governance issues.
“Before these meetings are conducted, adverts and notices are often flighted well ahead of the dates. It is now up to leaders in the community to encourage people to attend. It is also the responsibility of the residents to feel the need to attend.
“Some residents would not be aware of some of these meetings, therefore constant reminders could actually improve the numbers of attendees at these meetings,” Dube said.
“Even BCC budget consultations have very low turnout, year after year. This year (2020), they were done online owing to Covid-19, however, many people were just not bothered but these are matters of our city and its governance, how then do we complain about poor service delivery if we do not partake in the planning?” he said.
Other resident representatives urged communities in the Matabeleland region to push for the full implementation of devolution as it was one of the prerequisites of good governance.
A governance consultant, Tobias Guzura said residents must demand both devolution powers and decentralisation, which were guaranteed in the constitution.
He highlighted a worrying trend of how the government was pursuing the decentralisation agenda while dragging its feet on devolution.
“It remains worrying that nothing has been done to effectively pursue or expedite the implementation of devolution in the Matabeleland region. This is in contrast to the fact that this region is home to the busiest port of entry in the country and also a number of tourist attractions including one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and a number of tourist resorts, yet there is nothing to show for all the richness, in terms of development,” Guzura said.
He encouraged people in the region to be well versed in their constitutional rights and to hold their leaders to account over issues affecting the region, including the full implementation of devolution.
Guzura urged residents to actively participate in parliamentary portfolio committee public meetings in order to make meaningful contributions.
“Attending public meetings is important, however, attendance of such gatherings is usually low. What people do not realise is that by their absence, they are entrusting their interests in the few that attend. They are representatives of the interests of everyone, so they become the voice of that community. Decisions and policies are implemented taking into account the views of those that gave inputs,” he said.
“People in the region (Matabeleland) must exercise their rights by taking Parliament to task over such issues of importance. A petition to the government is one such avenue which can be exploited to push for the implementation of devolution.”