A comment on the proposed local government legislation
When I first heard that the UNDP was acting as technical support to the Ministry of Local Government which was reviewing Zimbabwe’s local government legislation, I was excited. Local Government is responsible for so much of service delivery – whether there is clean water in our taps, whether our refuse is collected, whether our roads are potholed or patched. So I thought that maybe this new legislation would take advantage of the improvements the new Constitution provides, and really make a difference.
Instead, I have read through the proposed Local Authorities Bill and the proposed Provincial and Metropolitan Councils Administration Bill, and I am insulted. The five main reasons why I am insulted are:
1. The proposed Provincial and Metropolitan Councils Administration Bill administers Provincial and Metropolitan Councils, but it’s unclear what these councils do, or who pays for them. Is this just more jobs and more patronage positions?
2. The proposed Local Authorities Bill makes no mention of these Provincial and Metropolitan Councils. If government were serious about decentralisation and devolution, like the Constitution says, it would give some power to the Provincial Councils to oversee and interact with local authorities. Instead, all local authority activities are still organised through the Ministry of Local Government.
3. The proposed Local Authorities Bill doesn’t take any power away from the Ministry of Local Government. The new Bill is just the current Urban Councils Act + Rural District Councils Act merged into one document. Nothing changes. Local government doesn’t have any more power, independence, capacity or freedom from interference by the Ministry of Local Government than it currently does.
4. The proposed legislation doesn’t do anything to make it easier for me as a resident to be engaged with local government. It doesn’t make it easier for me to get at financial statements or audited accounts from the city. It doesn’t make it easier for me to get at minutes of council meetings or change of use proposals. It doesn’t take advantage of my newly constitutionally guaranteed right to information to support my informed participation in local governance. In the proposed new bills, government is still “over there,” while as a resident I remain unimportant, not involved and insignificant outside of one election every five years.
The Constitution (Sec 62) states:
“Every Zimbabwean citizen or permanent resident, including juristic persons and the Zimbabwean media, has the right of access to any information held by the State or by any institution or agency of government at every level, in so far as the information is required in the interests of public accountability.”
5. The proposed legislation doesn’t create any concrete way in which ordinary people can hold elected officials more accountable. If I have a problem with my councillor, or an objection to something the council is doing, it still just lands up in that big pile of residents’ complaints. There is no requirement to do anything about it, no obligation to respond to residents’ concerns, no duty to engage in clear ways that ensure citizen participation.
Personally I’m saying a very big NO to this proposed legislation. Don’t insult me by telling me that you’re “revising laws to align them with the new Constitution” when you’re not. Zimbabwe’s 2013 Constitution should be making things better for ordinary citizens. It should be giving us a stronger voice in the decisions that affect our day to day lives. Service delivery has a huge impact on the lives of ordinary citizens, and service delivery is local government. The new local government legislation changes nothing, and if our Parliament passes it as it stands, it will be an insult to us as citizens, and an insult to our new Constitution.
Read the draft legislation and analyses and think for yourself:
- Draft Traditional Leaders Amendment Bill
- Draft Local Authorities Act
- Draft Provincial and Metropolitan Councils Administration Bill
- An Analysis of the proposed Local Authorities Bill
- An Analysis of the Provincial and Metropolitan Councils Administration Bill
Contribute to the debate:
- How do you want to be able to engage with local government to make sure your voice is heard?
- How do you think local government needs to improve service delivery to residents?
- What do you think the role of the Ministry of Local Government should be?
Send us your thoughts, feedback, input and ideas! We will collate your contributions for inclusion in debate at a Stakeholders Conference next week.
Email info [at] kubatana [dot] net