The absence of a devolution law that clearly defines the roles of provincial councils is likely to lead to conflict in Bulawayo, where the elected councillors are from the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) and the provincial councillors are from Zanu PF.
Provincial or Metropolitan Council seats are filled using a proportional representation system, based on the total number of votes obtained by the Lower House of Assembly candidates from each political party in the province or metropolitan area.
CCC did not submit their provincial council list during the nomination process on June 21, 2023, and although the party received considerable support in Bulawayo in the August 23, election, Zanu PF members were elected to the province council as they stood unopposed.
Responding to questions from CITE, political analyst, Effie Ncube stated that people must recognise that Zimbabwe does not yet have a Devolution Law that clearly defines the duties that provincial councils will play.
“The so-called devolution law was supposed to be in place as early as 2013,” Ncube said.
“Now, ten years later, there is no law that outlines really how the provincial councils are going to work.
“There was an attempt to make that law, but none came through, and this is saddening because we have a Constitution that spells out the expectations for devolution of power, but the government has done nothing at all to legislate to operationalize the provisions of the Constitution for a decade.”
One of the most critical issues, according to Ncube, is having a law that clearly defines the relationship between municipal and provincial authorities.
“Now, local authorities are directly accountable to the national government and there is nothing really in law that the provincial council can wake up doing without a law that operationalises their being there. This is going to be a challenge,” he said.
“Working together will also depend on the political manoeuvres that are likely to be there, particularly in Bulawayo. I think it will be squabbles. There is going to be lots of back and forth in terms of who has to do what and what not to do and so forth.”
CCC did approach the Bulawayo High Court before elections, requesting it to order the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to allow them to submit their provincial council candidate names and to overturn the following election of Zanu PF provincial council candidates who ran unopposed.
However, the court reserved its judgment.
According to Ncube, this underlines the relevance and urgency of a Devolution Law in that it devolves power and defines the tasks of local authorities, provincial councils, and inter-level connections in terms of addressing specific situations.
“You will find out that this is necessary even within the relationship between the local authority and the national government. For example, take education, for instance. We say there are concurrent responsibilities between the council and the government. The Council has a responsibility in education, that’s why it has its schools and the national government also in the same city, within the city district, has its schools,” Ncube said.
“In health, the council also has its clinics, the national government has its clinics also and so forth. So we must have a law that clarifies, otherwise, you’re going to have a lot of squabbles that are going to diminish any possibility of success over the next five years.”
Ncube stated that while the nomination of election candidates included slots for provincial councillors, the extent to which devolution was legislated meant that it was not implemented.
“Devolution remains a pipe dream and is devolution only in name. There have been situations sometimes where devolution funds sent to local authorities frequently go back to Harare before they are used because they were not budgeted for. People just sit there with a million dollars and don’t know what to do with it. The next thing is the money goes back to Harare. That’s what we are seeing in many districts,” he said.
Another political analyst, Iphithile Maphosa also weighed in that the Emmerson Mnangagwa-led government had delayed in passing a Devolution Law so they could maintain control over provinces and councils.
“Provinces and metropolitan councils need to run themselves for them to be efficient. But no law was passed. We learnt in the news how the previous Parliament heard there was a shortage of drafters in the Attorney General’s office. Lack of a devolution law has benefitted the Zanu government,” Maphosa said.
“Lack of law now will again work to Zanu’s advantage, especially in Bulawayo where there are elected CCC councillors and Zanu PF provincial councillors who may want to dominate against each other. But if there was a law, we know there would be harmony, but we all know what happens when we have two opposing parties, CCC and Zanu PF, it’s like having two bulls in one kraal.”