VARIOUS non-governmental organisations have urged the government to expedite the implementation of devolution, which empowers provincial councils and local authorities to spearhead economic and social development projects in their areas by leveraging on local resources.
Devolution was adopted as a key component of the 2013 Constitution of Zimbabwe which, in Chapter 14, states that it is desirable to ensure the preservation of national unity in Zimbabwe, prevent all forms of disunity and secessionism and allow the democratic participation in Government by all citizens and communities in Zimbabwe.
Director of Harare Residents Trust (HRT), Precious Shumba, said the devolution process should be implemented as a matter of urgency.
“The major challenge to the implementation of devolution remains the contestations for power among the national bureaucrats and other tiers of decision-makers, policymakers and bureaucrats.
“The national policymakers and bureaucrats have this fear of losing their power, authority and control of resources to provincial and local authorities,” he said.
According to the Zimbabwean government 2020 devolution policy, functions of all Provincial and Metropolitan Councils will include planning and implementing social and economic development activities.
It will also include coordinating and implementing government programmes, planning and implementing measures for the conservation, improvement and management of natural resources, promoting tourism and developing facilities for that purpose and monitoring and evaluating the use of resources.
Shumba said the government needs to quickly enact devolution legislation covering the Provincial Councils Administration, the Urban and Rural Councils to speed up the process of devolving governmental powers within the unitary state arrangement.
In a statement released by the Centre for Community Development in Zimbabwe (CCDZ) and the HRT, the organisations expressed concern over the slow implementation devolution.
“The CCDZ and the HRT are concerned about the slow pace of implementation of devolution. It is now more than six years after the enactment of the Constitution in May 2013, but local government is still largely administered through the Rural District Councils Act (Chapter 29.13) and Urban Councils Act (Chapter 29.15).
These laws are ultra-vires the Constitution; they vest ‘imperial’ powers in the executive to control local government structures in contravention of the provisions on devolution as enshrined in Chapter 14 of the Constitution,” reads part of the statement.
Shumba said that there was a need to develop a formula for the objective and scientific disbursement of the funds allocated from the annual national budget in accordance with Section 301 (3) of the Constitution, which states that at least 5% of allocations should go to local authorities and provincial councils as their share for that financial year.
He adds that currently these funds are being distributed without an objective formula, thus inequalities emerge among the local authorities and the provincial and metropolitan councils. Devolution implementation has its democratic governance dividend, therefore the closest to the citizens.
The CCDZ and HRT further indicated that even though devolution has become the buzzword in government, this political rhetoric is not matched by action in terms of crafting the devolution legislation, establishment and operationalisation of Provincial and Metropolitan Councils.