via Devolution still a pipe dream | The Financial Gazette by Mandla Tshuma 31 Oct 2013
Three months after ZANU-PF romped to power, the promised devolution which partially found expression in the new charter is yet to be seen.
The hope by some Zimbabweans that at long last decision-making would be de-centralised to the provinces remains a pipedream.
Many provinces, except Harare, the capital city, had held out hope that devolution, as expressed in Section 264 of the new Constitution would have become a reality by now.
The section was meant to give more powers to the provincial authorities to enhance the participation of their people in their governance.
According to the new Constitution, devolution seeks to recognise the right of communities to manage their own affairs and to further their own development.
The new Constitution created eight provincial councils with 10 councillors each, elected through proportional representation.
There are also two metropolitan provincial councils — Harare and Bulawayo — that will spearhead development in these respective cities.
Mayors of Harare and Bulawayo will chair the Harare and Bulawayo metropolitan provinces respectively.
But three months after the July 31st polls, which ushered in a new political leadership for the country, provincial councils, a creation of the new Constitution, are yet to sit.
In fact, it is unclear when they will sit in the absence of the enabling Act.
The provincial councils were established to accommodate growing calls from Zimbabweans for a devolved state since the 2000 constitutional review exercise.
A watered down version of devolution was finally incorporated into the supreme law, but the financing and enactment of an enabling law was left to the first Parliament elected under the new Constitution.
During the constitution-making process, President Robert Mugabe’s party, ZANU-PF, had opposed devolution, saying it was divisive.
And when he officially opened the first session of the eighth Parliament of Zimbabwe, the ZANU-PF leader was mum on the Provincial Councils Bill, which is supposed to give effect to devolution.
The august House would during the first session deal with over 20 Bills that exclude the one on the implementation of devolution, notwithstanding it is enshrined in the new Constitution.
President Mugabe has gone on to appoint 10 State ministers responsible for provincial affairs whose roles may usurp the powers intended for provincial chairpersons when elected.
Ironically, the provincial ministers who somewhat have replaced provincial governors abolished under the new supreme law to pave way for devolution, are already in office while the future of provincial chairpersons remains in limbo.
Permanent secretaries from the Ministries of Local Government and Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Killian Mupingo and Virginia Mabhiza, have both acknowledged that the realisation of devolution would not be an overnight event.
Mupingo said Parliament needed to first pass the Provincial Councils Bill, which is still being drafted before the operationalisation of provincial councils.
“We are working on the draft legislative framework for the provincial councils and the timing of their tabling and passing will depend on the interrogation of the Bill in the house,” he said.
To date, no allowances have been extended to the 80 provincial council members in the eight provinces excluding the metropolitan provinces. Their allowances and remuneration are subject to the matters to be addressed in the bill.
Mabhiza concurred, saying the eighth Parliament should first pass an enabling Act for provincial councils.
“The last Parliament unfortunately expired before it debated the harmonised Local Government Bill,” he said.
Zimbabwe’s current local governance is administered through two Acts — the Urban Councils Act and the Rural District Councils Act – but both do not speak to the new provincial councils.
There is no clarity again on how the sittings of provincial councils would be synchronised with the National Assembly and Senate.
National Assembly members and senators are also members of provincial councils in their respective provinces.
The Provincial Councils Bill is, among other things, expected to specify where and when the provincial councils would sit and how their administrative staff would be recruited.
Political analyst, Dumisani Nkomo, said with ZANU-PF appearing not to be in a hurry to put in place an enabling legislation for the provincial councils it would take time before Zimbabweans benefit from devolution of power.
“As the civic society, we are trying to engage Parliament so it can put across devolution agenda,” said Nkomo who is also the chief executive officer for Habakkuk Trust.
“Devolution is not just for Matabeleland; it is for the whole country; it is about service delivery. It is the ordinary people that are losing out as the process continues to drag,” he added.
Godwin Phiri, a political commentator, said it was worrisome that President Mugabe did not mention the provincial councils bills when he spelt out the legislative agenda for the first session of the new Parliament last month.
“However, we also need to accept that this is a new concept in Zimbabwe. Enacting a Bill and passing it into law might take some time,” said Phiri.
“Civic society must, however, continue putting pressure on government to fulfill that constitutional provision and adjust to the new dispensation.”
Bulawayo Agenda executive director, Thabani Nyoni, said ZANU-PF was shooting itself in the foot by delaying the implementation of devolution.
“Everyone is the biggest loser in this delay including ZANU-PF because it is now their time to deliver,” said Nyoni.
He said the delay was an attack on the country’s democracy, which the civic society would not just watch without taking action.