The question is: Is devolution, which is a form of decentralisation, feasible and desirable in Zimbabwe? Zanu PF, which prefers a highly-centralised unitary state, strongly opposes it, while the MDC parties believe devolution should be introduced to allow people at local levels to participate directly in how they are governed and in developing their own areas.
Zimbabwe Independent News Editor Dingilizwe Ntuli (DN) spoke to Enterprises minister and MDC-T Bulawayo provincial chairman Gorden Moyo (GM) whose province is making the strongest demands for devolution. Find below excerpts of the interview.
DN: Thank you for giving us this opportunity. So what is your party’s position on devolution?
GM: Our position is very clear. It’s the people’s position and that’s what we have adopted, and shall continue to work towards its realisation to devolve power from the centre to the meso levels. South Africa is a devolved state; Ghana has devolved powers and recently Kenya introduced devolution as a system of government and constitutionalised it. So we are not reinventing the wheel, but simply confirming what Zimbabweans have said, and also learning from the regional and international best practice.
DN: If we have devolution, wouldn’t certain regions resist sharing their resources with others?
GM: That’s a misconception. Devolution has five pillars. Firstly, we need governors elected by the people, and not appointed, because if they are appointed they would only be accountable to whoever appointed them. Then we need provincial budgets from national government implemented by the governor; provincial assemblies with your MPs sitting in the provinces; a jurisdiction whereby you identify sectors to be administered by provinces and make provinces autonomous, but linked to national government.
So devolution is a system within a unitary system of government, not federalism. You still have national government running the country, including resource mobilisation for all provinces and budgeting. Provinces can be given latitude to tax just like local authorities to have extra resources over and above what comes from central government, but central government has the responsibility to equalise if there are problems in other provinces. If there are resources or economic activities in a particular province, those economic activities must first benefit people within that province in terms of employment.
DN: Would the same constituency MPs at a national level sit in provincial assemblies or separate individuals have to be elected.
GM: It’s a choice that will be made by the people or the government. You will never have a uniform devolution system throughout the world. Each country has got its own peculiarities. Zimbabwe might say we want to have separate MPs who only do provincial business or you may have the same MPs in the national assembly to sit in the province.
DN: Which of these systems does the MDC-T prefer?
GM: The constitution shall come from the people. People have aired their views and drafters are now working on a new constitution. They must design the structure of devolution based on what the people said.
DN: President Robert Mugabe has outrightly rejected devolution, saying it’s tantamount to partitioning the country.
GM: It’s a misunderstanding, misconception or misreading of what devolution is. People confuse devolution with federalism. What the president, by the nature of his remarks, was rejecting was federalism, not devolution. There is a world of a difference between the two.
DN: Why is Matabeleland always mentioned whenever talk of devolution crops up?
GM: The people of Mutare, Masvingo, Midlands and some parts of Mashonaland have also called for devolution. It’s not only the people of Matabeleland who want devolution.
DN: When did calls for devolution actually begin?
GM: Over the past 30 years, Zimbabweans have seen how bad centralisation of power is. The challenges we are facing in this country are partly as a result of centralisation. People from all over the country have experienced the difficulties of coming to Harare, for instance to get a trading licence or passports and other such basic documents.
DN: What happens should Zanu PF reject devolution?
GM: They will be rejecting the demands of the people and the people will speak when they get a chance. I can’t speak on behalf of the people. It’s not the MDC which wants devolution, but the people themselves.
DN: Turning to your province, what issues or problems are affecting the region?
GM: There are a number of unfinished projects in Matabeleland and Bulawayo and this has been a major grievance. There’s the unfinished Nkayi road, construction of the National University of Science and Technology and the Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo airport, among others. People are worried about this and believe with effective devolution, these issues would be dealt with urgently and efficiently. There is the issue of water politics in Matabeleland and many other things which need people to be involved at a local level to resolve. The reason why there is a general thinking in Matabeleland that the region has been marginalised by government since independence, is that people are alienated from development, business, resources and employment. That’s the problem.
DN: What strides has the MDC made in trying to address some of these issues since it displaced Zanu PF there?
GM: MDC is in government but is not government. We don’t have an MDC administration so we have not been able to make decisions at government level that would directly respond to some of the issues. Until the MDC is in power or we have devolution of power as a constitutional and legal framework, we will continue to have these kinds of problems. MDC has done a lot.
The ministry of water has done a lot and the ministry of finance together with the ministry of industry and commerce has identified the reindustrialisation of Bulawayo as a priority, but they are not good enough.
DN: There have been reports of factionalism in your party in Bulawayo. What is going on?
GM: Factionalism in Bulawayo exists only in the newspapers. It’s not there within the structures of the MDC. We have strong united structures which are now preparing for the elections. We only read about factionalism in newspapers.
DN: So the MDC-T is ready for elections with or without a new constitution?
GM: The MDC is clear in terms of elections. The Prime Minister (Morgan Tsvangirai) said MDC has always won elections and we will win the next elections, but we want elections that will respect the will of the people. We want the people to be allowed to express their will unhindered during elections, that’s why reforms are fundamental before the polls.