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This article participates on the following special index pages:
New Constitution-making process - Index of articles
Decentralisation: The way for Zimbabwe
October 09, 2012
So much has
been said about what makes a good governance system for Zimbabwe.
In the process there has been so much confusion that residents and
other ordinary citizens no longer understand what is right or wrong.
A decentralised system of governance provides a clear platform for
public participation within clear systems and institutional mechanisms,
which are put in place to foster genuine public participation.
in governance issues is not a piecemeal exercise where a group of
individuals further their interests over the general populace. Citizens
should be given a platform to fully participate in governance issues
particularly in issues that affect their entire livelihood and broadly
proffer solutions to the identified challenges within their communities.
This model is being reviewed against a devolved state which increases
the burden on the citizens through a bloated government at provincial
council level and in the House
of Assembly. These dual existences of both elected and appointed
members at the provincial and national levels provide unnecessary
pressure on an already ailing economy. Zimbabwe at this juncture
is experiencing unprecedented levels of economic meltdown coupled
with political uncertainty.
outcry" on the need for devolution is ironically resonating
from one region which the HRT strongly believe is not the conviction
or understanding of the generality of Zimbabwe. The failure by COPAC
to clearly and exhaustively define the mechanics surrounding the
devolution model to the residents is one element which shows that
the model is not being introduced in good faith and for the benefit
of the ordinary Zimbabwean but it is being driven by a group of
elites who are only pursuing their selfish political agendas, despite
the huge cost to the nation and the welfare of ordinary people.
The HRT prefers
a decentralised model of governance over devolution. Our understanding
of these two structures is that they are not totally different if
taken at face value. The English meaning of decentralization and
devolution of power seem very similar when looked at superficially.
However the important fact that needs to be realized when it comes
to the governing power of a country is that decentralization amounts
to the transfer of that power from the central government to a local
authority be it a region, a province or a district while devolution
is on the other hand the removal of central government power and
handing that power over to a region, a province or a district. Decentralized
power, if misused by a region, a province and or a district, could
be recalled by Central Government while devolved power cannot be
recalled by Central Government if misused by a region, a province
and a district.
In the same
vein COPAC has been trying to convince
people to advocate for devolution but the HRT does not think
our country can sustain that system of governance. At the moment
the country needs governance structures that are ultimately accountable
to Central Government in a decentralised model. With the rampant
corruption across the nation, the situation will explode out of
anyone's control if the regions have absolute powers over
their citizens and resources. Decentralisation is the way to go
at the moment, considering the size of Zimbabwe. In an article in
the Newsday of 19 July 2012 titled "Groups decide on Devolution,
"the Matabeleland Civic Society Forum opined that: "For
us, we want to address devolution of power, public finances and
the truth commission."
While this view
might be shared by the majority in civil society in Matabeleland,
it has to be examined from a national perspective, rather than from
a regional perspective, as part of promoting national cohesion within
the civic society movement and the generality of the population.
In our view this view has trappings of elitism, and not championing
the aspirations of the people in the whole Matabeleland region.
As a residents movement our conviction is that there is need for
a clear policy framework addressing decentralised governance through
which the central government retains some power and authority over
the operations of both the provincial and local government in order
to maintain checks and balances of the lower tiers of governments'
the democratic discourse the country is grappling with corrupt councillors
within urban and rural local authorities, including the City of
Harare. There have been claims and allegations of massive corruption
exhibited by councillors who have over a short period of time become
excessively rich without any tangible investments to support their
new statuses. This level of kleptocracy and lootocracy, being witnessed
today, will be massive and uncontrolled in a devolved state. Surely
this country will be taken aback with warlords and individual power
havens being prevalent. It is a well-known fact that devolution
is an intermediary phase from a unitary state towards a federal
the continent Nigeria is gripped with widespread destabilisation
as a result of the insurgent group Boko Haram which demand insists
on declaring independence from the Nigerian National Government.
The residents demand a free and prosperous state habitating in peace
tranquillity and harmony. Productive engagement among citizens,
their elected representatives and service providers is still achievable
under a decentralised governance system. What is needed is the complete
opening up of government structures through a genuine political
commitment from the politicians and the general change of the ethos
and mindsets of bureaucrats to view residents as strategic partners
in decision making, and projects implementation. This development
will indeed go a long way in redefining the governance discourse
in order to improve the delivery of public goods and services to
the residents. This bickering over who does what in the constitution
making process is not being premised on the wishes and aspirations
of the heterogeneous citizenry but solely aimed at promoting and
protecting individual interests and positions. Such a development
has disastrous implications on the welfare of the residents as the
generality of the residents do not benefit from the process.
Chapter 5 of
the COPAC proposed draft
Constitution from Subsection 1 to Subsection 7 it is not clear what
is supposed to be done to an errant provincial government. There
is no clear provision on who has the authority over the provincial
government thereby making it wholly autonomous. This arrangement
will leave the central Government with no authority over the provincial
assemblies. In this vein there is an only subsection 1, 5, 7 which
empowers "the joint sitting of the senate and the Parliament
by affirmative of at least two thirds may nullify provincial legislation".
This provision allows parliament and senate to nullify pieces of
legislation which is not in line with national interests however
the Parliament does not have absolute power to dissolve provincial
government except to nullify the legislation. The central government
will lose its oversight role in a manner which the provincial and
local government operates, leaving the entire citizenry at the mercy
of the provincial and local governments who have perennially failed
to deliver the basic services to the heterogeneous citizenry.
The policy direction
governing local government should be very clear; articulated and
demystified to ensure the genuine involvement or participation of
the residents. Citizens should be objective and non-partisan, conscious
of Zimbabwe's socio-political and economical dynamics prevailing
in our country before advocating for a model that creates disharmony
among the citizenry. Citizens should be empowered to make independent
decisions without being coerced into supporting or endorsing models
of governance they do not understand. There is an urgent need to
reorient our focus towards genuine nation building and desist from
elitist and sectoral approaches to governance which may have disastrous
consequences in the not so distant future.
Visit the Harare
Residents' Trust fact
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