Groups here say political power and resource allocation decisions were controlled in Harare, making it difficult for accountability and fair distribution of resources.
The outreach programme to gather public views on the new constitution started this week in most parts of the country, in what provides Zimbabweans with a rare opportunity to have a say on how they want their country governed.
Lobbying for decentralisation of power reached its peak this week, with calls for each of the country’s 10 provinces to have a right to self-governance and control of local resources.
Provincial governors, currently appointed by the president of the country, should be subjected to an election to make them directly answerable to the people who elected them, proponents for decentralisation argue.
Matabeleland Constitutional Reform Agenda (Macra) leader, Effie Ncube, said civil society groups in the region were unanimous that provincial capitals should get more power.
He said devolution of power would allow communities to control their own local resources, unlike a situation similar to Marange where mined diamonds have failed to improve the local people’s lives.
“With a centralised system the person who builds roads would not drive on the roads while people who authorise the building of dams do not drink from the same dams. With devolution you give people power to take control of their lives,” Ncube said.
MDC-M spokesperson for Bulawayo province, Edwin Ndlovu, said his party was advocating that three “critical” issues be included in the constitution, top among them the devolution of power. He said the MDC-M would advocate devolution of power, proportional representation and two presidential terms of five years each.
“MDC will campaign for a No Vote in the referendum if these issues are not well articulated in the constitution and we want nothing short of devolution of power, nothing short of proportional representation and two presidential terms of five years each,” Ndlovu said.
Decisions pertaining to the governance of the country are centralised through the executive, cabinet and parliament, all based in Harare.
Zapu spokesperson, Methuseli Moyo, said politicians opposed to devolution had clouded the debate by insinuating that decentralisation would result in the breaking up of Zimbabwe into several little countries.
“Under devolution of power we are not calling for the breaking up of the country. We will still have one president, one national flag, one currency and even one national team for sporting events,” he said.
“But we have other people believing that people from Matabeleland want to break away from Zimbabwe. That is not the case. Devolution of power will benefit all the provinces in the country to fully utilise and benefit from the resources and make decisions that affect them directly,” Moyo said.
He said Zapu wanted the country to be divided into five provinces, namely Matabeleland, Masvingo, Manicaland, Mashonaland and the Midlands province, with elected governors being in charge of the provinces.
Moyo said decentralisation was gaining currency throughout the world.
“All democracies in the world are decentralising and that is happening in the US, South Africa and UK and there is nothing sinister to have people managing their own affairs,” Moyo said.
While the political parties and civic society groups are unanimous on the issue of empowering regions and provinces, the sticky issue was on how the new constitution should best capture decentralisation.
Some of the civic society groups and political parties are advocating simple devolution of power to the provinces. Others, such as Ibhetshu Likazulu, want the new constitution to introduce federalism, which would give the provinces total autonomy to run their affairs.
Ibhetshu Likazulu spokesperson, Qhubekani Dube, said his organisation was pushing for federalism, because the current constitution already provided for the devolution of power by empowering provincial governors to run provinces.