BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
CIVIC society organisations operating in Matabeleland have accused politicians from the region of lacking stamina to push for implementation of devolution of power as enshrined in the Constitution.
This emerged during a virtual meeting on devolution of power organised by political and civic society actors in Bulawayo’s Pumula constituency on Wednesday.
The meeting was chaired by Dumisani Nkomo, co-ordinator of the faith-based Habakkuk Trust.
Devolution is provided for under Chapter 12 of the 2013 Constitution with section 268 of the charter providing for the establishment of provincial councillors in the country’s provinces.
Nkomo, a political analyst, said there was no political will on the part of the government to implement devolution for fear of losing political power.
He said Matabeleland politicians were not helping matters by not pushing enough to ensure its implementation.
“The government or the party that is in charge of government fears that it is ceding political power to other political parties by fully implementing devolution,” Nkomo said.
“The quality or calibre of some of our politicians is worrying. Few are engaged on the issue of devolution. This is one thing they could have focussed on since 2018, for example insisting on a new Parliament for Bulawayo.”
To date, there is no enabling Act to operationalise devolution despite government approving principles of the Provincial Councils and Administration (Amendment) Bill.
Under section 268 of the Constitution, legislators were supposed to sit in the provincial and metropolitan councils.
Instead, the government has revealed plans to craft laws ensuring that legislators do not sit in the councils but play an oversight role in the utilisation of devolution funds.
“If devolution is seen as a national, not Matabeleland issue alone, it could work. For example, provinces which previously benefited from centralisation are no longer at the helm of power. The power had shifted to parts of Masvingo and parts of Midlands,” Nkomo added.
“We need to convince all provinces, even people in the system that devolution works for them.
“Political actors must begin to take council elections seriously. Once we have weak councillors, devolution is also weakened. We should place emphasis on local government elections and field the best candidates there.”
Recalled MDC Alliance legislator Kucaca Phulu said: “I can’t agree that we are not pushing enough. You have to go back, I think even (Samuel) Sipepa Nkomo even went to court over devolution. There have been motions over devolution; and even in this Parliament, there were a number of motions.
“You can even look at the number of government policies, for example even NDS1, they have come to reflect on devolution. It’s a political pressure piled by the opposition and other stakeholders. There is also a devolution policy, a detailed government policy on devolution which shows their intentions to move in that direction. We might not agree on nitty-gritties but I feel we have been pushing enough.”
Mangaliso Ndlovu, Environment minister and Zanu PF Bulilima East MP said: “In terms of development, which region has received more attention than Matabeleland? We need to back up some of our statements with facts.
“For example, look at the investments going into Matabeleland North alone, resources have been deployed there to bring to life the much-talked about MZWP as a case example. It is very important that people acknowledge what the second republic has done for the region. The President has given much more attention to the region than it has before, all inclined to devolution.”