Maxwell Sibanda 25 April 2019
CENTRE for Community Development in Zimbabwe (CCDZ) is a local non-profit
organisation established in 2008 mainly to promote citizen participation
in governance and empower citizens through rights awareness and promoting
dialogue with duty-bearers such as elected Councillors, Members of
Parliament and engaging public institutions for better service delivery.
The Daily News Assistant Editor Maxwell Sibanda spoke to CCSZ director
Phillip Pasirayi on a wide ranging interview about his organisation’s
association with rural and urban council and, their fight for devolution
and engagement with government, in particular Local Government ministry
and Parliament of Zimbabwe.
Q: Six years after the new constitution, which laws in particular would
you have liked aligned?
A: We are working with like-minded organisations to lobby for the
alignment of local government laws to the Constitution. As you are aware,
local government is still governed or regulated through the Rural District
Councils Act and Urban Councils Act. These pieces of legislation
are ultra-vires the Constitution especially Chapter 14 which is clear on
the need to devolve governmental powers and responsibilities to lower
tiers such as Local authorities and Provincial Councils. It is now six
years after the promulgation of the new Constitution and we were expecting
that by now these laws would have been repealed but that is not the case.
Instead the government continues to use these laws to run local government
and there is no appetite on the part of the Executive to have these laws
changed to reflect the new constitutional dispensation.
Q: Why do you think government is taking its time to align these laws?
A: The alignment of local government laws is taking long because
politicians crave control and the reason why there is no progress in the
alignment of laws and implementation of devolution is the fear of losing
control over local government institutions. There is lack of political
will to align existing local government laws to the Constitution because
they are very key in sustaining the status quo. For instance, if the
Provincial and Metropolitan Councils are in place the Ministers of State
for Provincial Affairs will no longer be relevant. The alignment of laws
and implementation of devolution will result in the establishment of
Provincial and Metropolitan Councils. There is resistance to the
establishment of these local government structures because the opposition
will have control, not only in Harare and Bulawayo but will also be
represented in the Provincial Councils. This is a source of discomfort for
some people in government who strongly feel that the PMCs must not be
established because they will give the opposition control especially in
Q: And what interventions have you made so far?
A: In 2017, CCDZ and its partners Harare Residents Trust, the Combined
Harare Residents Association, Chitungwiza Residents Trust and Zimbabwe
United Residents Association petitioned the Parliament of Zimbabwe urging
it to play its constitutional role and ensure urgent alignment of local
government laws and establishment of Provincial and Metropolitan
Q: Who else have you engaged?
A: In 2018, CCDZ held a devolution policy dialogue which was attended by
the Permanent Secretary in the Local Government Ministry George
Magosvongwe and representatives from government, civil society, academia
and the media. Last week, CCDZ held a briefing session with members of the
Parliamentary Local Government Committee to discuss progress in the
implementation of devolution. The meeting noted that the political
rhetoric on devolution is not matched by action on the ground. The
legislation to allow parliamentarians to debate and adopt devolution
policy is yet to be tabled in parliament and those elected as Provincial
Councillors have not yet taken oath of office.
Q: What is one of your key demands?
A: One of CCDZ’s key demands is that the proposed Provincial and
Metropolitan Councils Bill is urgently tabled in parliament for debate and
allow parliamentarians and citizens to make an input. CCDZ is also
demanding that once tabled in Parliament the Local Government Portfolio
Committee must convene public hearings to gather people’s views on the
Q: How spread is your organisation, nationwide, do you have branches?
A: CCDZ is operating at a national level. We are currently implementing
programmes focusing on citizen engagement and capacity building of local
governance structures such as Local authorities in Harare, Marondera,
Murewa, Mutoko, Wedza, Goromonzi, Chitungwiza, Kadoma, Chinhoyi, Karoi,
Hurungwe, Norton, Kwekwe, Makoni and Mutasa districts. In these areas we
have structures known as Community Work Groups made up of people from the
local community – men, women, youths, the differently abled and others.
These community structures are responsible for community engagement and
spearheading community actions on service delivery.
Q: Which other like-minded organisations do you work with, on what
A: CCDZ is working with other organisations that are doing similar work.
At the local level, we work with Community Based Organisations (CBOs),
Residents Associations and churches to mobilise residents to participate
in our programmes. These include; Harare Residents Trust, Chinhoyi
Residents Association, Berina Kadoma Residents Association, Kwekwe
Residents and Ratepayers Association, Chitungwiza Residents Trust,
Chitungwiza and Manyame Rural Residents Association, Mutoko Community
Youth Initiatives, Zimbabwe Youth in Politics in Kwekwe, Wedza Initiative
for Development Trust, Institute for Young Women in Development, Simukai
Goromonzi Rural Residents Trust and many others.
Q: And at national level?
A: At the national level, CCDZ is working with other organisations such as
Southern Africa Parliamentary Support Trust, Commonwealth Local Government
Forum, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and the Centre for Applied Legal
Research on alignment of local government laws to the Constitution. CCDZ
is also leading a Consortium of NGOs working at the national level to
engage government and other policy-makers on political reforms and
implementation of the Constitution and alignment of local government laws.
This programme is supported by the European Union.
Q: In terms of your work, which ministry do you usually work with?
A: We work with various government ministries or departments and the level
of engagement with any Ministry is determined by the nature or scope of
the programme we are implementing at a particular time. Currently we are
working closely with the Local Government ministry on the issue of
Q: Your organisation is advocating for devolution; what is devolution?
A: Devolution is about bringing political power and governmental
responsibilities closer to the people. It entails the removal of a
significant amount of political power from the centre (in this case
central government) to the lower tiers of government. It is about bringing
government closer to the people, to make government easily accessible and
allow communities to determine their development needs and priorities.
Q: How has been your campaign so far in calling for devolution?
A: CCDZ has intensified its campaign for the implementation of devolution
to promote development and the participation and or involvement of
citizens in governance and decision-making at the local-level.
Q: Can you give examples of other African countries where devolution has
A: Devolution is being implemented successfully in countries such as South
Africa and Kenya but this is not to say that it is smooth and does not
have its own challenges. There is no one-size-fits-all as each country has
to adopt a devolution model that is informed by its history and
development trajectory. The political and economic imperatives of
devolution are different from country to country. In our case I think the
desire is to deepen our democracy and ensure that government is brought
closer to the people and that citizens are given an opportunity to be led
by their own people who are well informed about the development challenges
in their respective communities and how these can be addressed.
Q: What is the feeling in the regions about devolution?
A: There are concerns about underdevelopment of regions/provinces and the
feeling that some areas are marginalised and lag behind in terms of
economic growth. I attended the public hearings convened by COPAC when
they were crafting the new Constitution and citizens were clear that the
concerns of marginalisation and underdevelopment are real in some regions
and the expectation is that these will be addressed through devolution.
Q: Rural councils, what are some of the teething problems they face?
A: It is true most rural councils are facing teething problems especially
in this harsh economic environment. To start with, the revenue base is
small compared to urban councils. As a result, rural councils are failing
to deliver quality social services to their people. Councils are failing
to rehabilitate roads on their own without support from central government
as well deliver quality water and sanitation services. Rural councils need
to broaden their resource base and not just depend on money collected for
rates and taxes. The money is not enough to address the colossal service
delivery challenges in the communities. The other challenge in rural
areas is the politicization of Council and development issues. Some people
in rural areas are of the mistaken view that Councils must serve only the
interests of the ruling party.
Q: You have been working in rural communities, how is the food situation
there? Do people have enough food?
A: The food situation in rural areas is dire due to the drought we have
experienced this year. Crops and pastures for animals have been affected.
The food situation is worse in areas such as Mutoko, Mudzi, Uzumba Maramba
Pfungwe, Mbire, Mt Darwin districts and several districts in Masvingo,
Matabeleland North and South provinces. There is need for government to
assess the food situation and engage the international community and
appeal for food aid. The government must also put in place mechanisms to
ensure transparency in the distribution of food aid. The Ministry of
Public Service and Social Welfare can also work closely with humanitarian
agencies such as World Food Programme (WFP), Goal, World Vision, Save the
Children and others to start community work schemes, food-for-work
programmes to avert hunger and starvation in rural communities.
Q: How is the rural road network?
A: This is one area that requires urgent government intervention. The
roads in rural areas are in a sorry state. CCDZ is working in rural remote
areas such as Kanyemba in the Zambezi Valley. The stretch of the road from
Mahuwe to Kanyemba in Mbire District requires urgent government attention.
We are talking about more than 200km of gravel road and about 3 narrow
bridges that have claimed many lives. It is a good thing that government
has classified Mbire district including Kanyemba a development priority.
There is now need to mobilise resources for tarring of Kanyemba road to
open up the district for investment and development. The area is lagging
behind in terms of development because of poor or non-existent
infrastructure. The government needs to spearhead a vigorous development
programme so that the area can catch up with the rest of the country. Our
appeal to the Minister of Transport and Infrastructure Joel Biggie Matiza
and his Deputy Advocate Fortune Chasi is that the Mahuwe to Kanyemba road
should be prioritised even ahead of other road projects. I challenge them
to travel to Kanyemba by road to understand the challenges that the people
of Kanyemba and transporters are experiencing. The Kanyemba road is
important and shortest link to Zambia.
Q: Which other infrastructure do you think needs urgent attention?
A: There is also need for government to prioritise building other
infrastructure such as schools, clinics and community recreation centres.
The government can also embark on agriculture and tourism projects in
Kanyemba taking advantage of the Zambezi River.
The issue of energy in rural areas also needs to be addressed urgently.
The government through the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) has tried
but there is still more work to be done. For sustainability it might be
necessary to invest in solar energy. It is actually a luxury to see
electricity infrastructure in most areas.
Q: How has the Transitional Stabilisation Programme fared?
A: The Transitional Stabilisation Programme will only bear fruits if
social services such as education, health, water, and sanitation and
energy provision in rural remote areas such as Kanyemba are prioritised.
This is also the other reason why CCDZ and its partners are pushing for
speed implementation of devolution to promote economic development and
access to services by locals.
Q: How often do you engage councils and over what issues?
A: We are working with Councils to build their capacity as duty-bearers to
be able to deliver better services to residents, in line with their
obligations. There is an elaborate training programme for Councillors and
Council heads focusing on topics such as: local government and the
constitution, leadership, local governance legal framework in Zimbabwe,
local governance and human rights, gender responsive budgeting, the
rights-based approach to service delivery and project management. These
training sessions are meant to equip Councillors to play their role and
represent residents effectively. CCDZ is also engaging councils to consult
with and involve residents in the decision-making process through
publicizing Council meetings and inviting Residents Associations and
residents to attend these important meetings as well as Councillors
holding feedback meetings in their wards. Our understanding is that
dialogue between Councils and residents is important to identify service
delivery challenges in these communities and how to address them. CCDZ is
creating these platforms for dialogue between Councils and residents to
address service delivery challenges in the communities.
Q: How is your relationship as CCDZ with mayors and councillors around
the country, do you sometimes engage them?
A: As CCDZ we have a good working relationship with Mayors and councillors
and in the towns and districts where we operate but in some instances we
have been denied access by gate-keepers who think our work is political
and we have been labelled as “agents of regime change”. To mitigate this
CCDZ has continued to conduct professional and non-partisan programmes
aimed at empowering both Councils so that they are able to deliver on
their mandate as well as working with residents across towns and districts
where we operate so that they can engage the authorities and demand better
services. We engage Councils on their role and obligations on service
Q: Are you happy with most council budgets being produced?
A: There is a huge improvement in the manner in which Council budgets are
now being formulated. Councils are now consulting widely with residents in
the wards. This was not the case before whereby budget making was a
preserve of Council elites. But our concern is that although Councils have
been widely consulting residents on budget formulation, in some instances
the views of residents are not included in the final budgets. In such
cases consultations are just being done as protocol.
Q: Has there been any advocacy over these budgets?
A: There has been a lot of advocacy by CCDZ and resident associations.
These organisations have done tremendous work in pushing Councils to
consult with residents when they come up with their budgets. Council
budgets should be reflective of residents’ issues, interests and
priorities. Some organisations such as Zimbabwe Women Resource Centre and
Network and Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association have also worked with
Councils on gender responsive budgeting. This work is important because
service delivery issues affect women and men differently and this should
be reflected in Council budgets.
Q: MDC has been controlling councils, are you happy as an organisation
with their work?
A: I think it’s a wrong premise to start from to categorise Councils as
either MDC or Zanu PF. I think political partisanship is one of the key
challenges stalling development in our country. We should have
city-fathers and mothers who are ready to serve their country, their
people and communities without the political labels “MDC” or “Zanu PF”.
These don’t help us much as a country. We need to elevate our politics
including at the local level to a point whereby our public officials –
Councillors, Members of Parliament and others are guided by the common
interest not political partisan interests.
Q: And how do you engage with political parties?
A: CCDZ works with both Zanu PF and MDC councillors to enhance their
capacity so that they better represent the interests of their people.
Generally, the performance of Councils has been poor countrywide as they
are failing to provide basic social services such as water, roads, health
and sanitation services. However, there has been an attempt to blame MDC
run councils for political expediency but not acknowledge the
macro-economic challenges that are affecting all Councils and affecting
their capacity to deliver better services to the citizenry.
Q: If you were to be Minister of Local Government today, what would be
some of your priorities in terms of community development?
A: I will immediately hit the ground running. I have the credentials and
experience to run the Local government portfolio. If I am to take over
today I will immediately embark on a national tour with directors from my
ministry to engage stakeholders such as government, residents, community
based organisations, business, councils, traditional authorities and
others in every corner of the country on their concerns regarding local
government. I will do this to ensure that my ministry adopts a
comprehensive programme of action and local government blueprint that is
reflective of the interests of all stakeholders. I will also engage
Parliament to understand the concerns of legislators regarding local
government laws that need to be aligned to the Constitution. My ministry
will convene provincial multi-stakeholder sessions to be attended by all
political parties, non-state actors, government, business, interest
groups, traditional leaders and others to discuss about the implementation
of devolution. The discussions on devolution will seek to agree on the
nature of devolution required for our country in line with the
Constitution, the structure and composition of Provincial and Metropolitan
Councils, mandate of these important local government institutions, their
relationship with central government and other tiers of government and
funding issues. I will agree with the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on
Local Government on the timeline for crafting the Provincial and
Metropolitan Councils Bill and when it will be brought to parliament for
debate and adoption. I will make sure to implement devolution and
establish Provincial Councils in my first 100 days in office. I will also
work closely with the office of the Auditor-General and Zimbabwe
Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) and the Land Commission to investigate
cases of corruption in the allocation of land as well as award of tenders
by local councils. I will work closely with Local councils to ensure that
modern standards of urban planning are followed and that informal,
unplanned urban settlements such as Nyatsime in Chitungwiza, Harare South
and Harare North housing schemes are re-planned and proper services such
as roads, water, and sanitation are provided to residents.
Are parliamentarians doing enough when it comes to pushing local
The parliamentarians are not doing enough to push for local governance
reforms. Recently we had a briefing session with members of the
Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Local Government to discuss about
devolution. I think there is serious lack of capacity by some legislators
to perform their constitutional duties. We realised that most MPs do not
understand what is meant by devolution, the economic and political
benefits of devolution and the form and structure it should take in our
context. We also realised most of the members of the portfolio committee
are new and do not fully understand their oversight role as
parliamentarians. CCDZ will continue to engage the parliamentarians and
build their capacity so that they can effectively perform their
You have a vision as CCDZ, what is it?
CCDZ’s vision is to see communities that are built on the values of
equality, justice, participation, inclusivity, transparency and
accountability. Such communities are empowered and all citizens regardless
of colour, creed, political affiliation, religion, gender have full and
enjoy full citizenship and are part of the nation for development and
Q: Anything you might want to add?
A: I want to end by calling on all Zimbabweans to join the CCDZ campaign
for local government reforms and the immediate implementation of
devolution. I wish to reiterate that it is now six years after the
promulgation of the Zimbabwe constitution and provisions on local
government and devolution in Chapter 14 have not yet been implemented.
There is lack of political will to implement devolution. Political
rhetoric is not matched by action on the ground. I call upon President
Emmerson Mnangagwa, Minister July Moyo, Parliament of Zimbabwe and other
policy-makers to play their role and expedite the implementation of
devolution. Further delay is an affront to democratic practice and serious
lack of respect for our Constitution. Just to remind us all that one of
the reasons that was given by Zanu PF to justify the ouster of former
president Robert Mugabe was his refusal or reluctance to implement
devolution and establish Provincial and Metropolitan Councils.
Lastly, I urge us all to strive to make our country a better place