DESPITE dominating some of the country’s biggest municipalities, analysts say the MDC has little to show in terms of achievements since its formation in 1999. They argue that the MDC leadership from the late Morgan Tsvangirai to Nelson Chamisa have failed to give councils direction, adding that both have failed to make devolution a priority. Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said while it is fundamental for people to be asking what President Emmerson Mnangagwa did at a national level since he took power, the same questions should be asked to Chamisa.
“What has the MDC councils done since they took power? The local councils are a source of power and need to be engaged. That’s where real power lies,” said Saungweme. It is being argued that full independence and devolution of power is key to the proper and professional running of municipalities.
Against such background, human rights lawyer Dewa Mavhinga said it is not correct to say the MDC has neglected this area.
“It is a site of struggle that needs all hands on the deck and, to be fair, the MDC and other pro-democracy groups did push hard to have devolution as a constitutional principle, but there are forces in the government resisting a move towards full devolution,” said Mavhinga.
He said powers of central government must be trimmed to make way for devolution including the power to approved capital expenditure or resources allocation by municipalities.
Mavhinga said there is also need to look into the capture of municipalities by central government through the appointments of town clerks, adding that much more needs to be done, and all stakeholders, including the media, must play a part to highlight the urgent need for autonomous authority to local councils in accordance with the latter and spirit of the Constitution.
Political analyst Macdonald Lewanika opines that the MDC in some respects is missing a golden opportunity to create centres of excellence out of the councils they run. Bulawayo City Council has in the past demonstrated that despite Zanu PF control of central government local councils can be alternate centres of both good governance and real meaningful service delivery to the people because they are more proximate vehicles of development to people at the local level.
“It may not be Chamisa’s job to meddle with local government affairs but he needs to marshal his troops to deliver at that level, fight for meaningful devolution and greater access to resources for them so that they can deliver,” said Lewanika.
He said Chamisa has the inevitable task of pointing out bad governance at the national level and continuing to claim national stakes while captaining a local government ship that is in dire need of both his stewardship and inspiration for the sake of the voters who trusted his team.
Social analyst Rashweat Mukundu believes Chamisa and MDC certainly need to invest more time in managing councils and restore residents faith in the operations of councils. “There is need to demonstrate the difference between the MDC and other parties in terms of managing councils,” he said.
Media practitioner Nigel Nyamutumbu said the MDC should demonstrate that while it advocates for good governance and accountability, the same standards apply to them internally as a party and in their leadership of the local councils.
“Chamisa, as the national leader should periodically meet his mayors and quarterly publish reports of what his councillors are doing, their achievements and challenges. He should demonstrate why his party is indeed the better alternative,” said Nyamutumbu.
Centre for Community Development of Zimbabwe, CCDZ president Phillip Pasirayi believes the non-performance of councils should not be blamed on Chamisa because the ruling Zanu PF doesn’t want to implement devolution.
He said the Councils are doing a lot of programmes through the “Smart Cities” programme. “I don’t know what else they could possibly do given the control by central government; the right question to ask is why devolution is taking long to implement and blaming Chamisa could be too harsh on him and his party.”
Pasirayi said the MDC fought for devolution when the Constitution was being crafted while the courts and Parliament has been petitioned over the issue.
“Meetings have been held but still the rhetoric on devolution is not being turned into action. It’s deliberate, it’s on purpose.
“The reason is that Zanu PF is not interested in devolution because doing so removes power from central government and giving it to local authorities that are controlled by the MDC.”
Pasirayi added that Chamisa has appointed Zvidzai and others to take care of councils and they are doing well. “It should not just be Chamisa but other leaders like Elias Mudzuri, Tendai Biti and Welshman Ncube.”
Former Harare Mayor Bernard Manyenyeni believes more could be done by Chamisa and MDC. “Chamisa has improved in terms of involvement with councils but a lot more could be done, I concur!”