Their disingenuous contributions to the constitution-making process, which come exactly 18 months after Copac completed the outreach programme, are obviously meant to condition the nation to their views and influence the drafters to ignore the overwhelming demand for devolution by the rest of the people of Zimbabwe.
There is a small clique of Zanu PF politicians trying to misinform the people about devolution by making false claims of what it is and what it entails to maintain the current structure of over-centralisation of power, which has helped to destroy the nation.
But before we can go any further we need to define what devolution is and is not. Devolution simply means a legal granting of powers from central government to lower levels of government such as provincial, district or municipal tiers. It is a political and financial issue as it involves election of local representatives by local people and giving those lower levels of government a budget that is normally administered by central government.
Federalism involves the sharing of power to govern between the national and state or provincial governments as defined by the constitution. Quite clearly, there is a world of a difference between devolution and federalism.
It is quite clear the current system of a highly-centralised state as we have in Zimbabwe has promoted autocracy, inefficiency, corruption and exclusion of people from full participation in how they are governed. Devolution can certainly help to address some of these problems.
So claims by Mugabe and Chombo that devolution divides people are not just misleading but also false. There are many examples of devolved states in Africa and elsewhere in the world which are working well. In fact, devolution, instead of dividing people, promotes equitable distribution of resources and above all national cohesion.
The only reason why Mugabe wants to maintain the current system is that it enables him to control and run the country like his backyard. We have all seen what the results of that approach have been. So his argument is completely driven by self and not national interest. It does not even serve Zanu PF interests, so it can only be about him, nothing else.
Beyond this, Mugabe and Chombo must be reminded that Copac afforded all Zimbabweans the chance to present their views on all issues, including the issue of the structure of government. The two either decided to undermine the process by ignoring the outreach programme or to downplay the importance of the people’s views by desperately trying to dilute their views through some of the weirdest arguments about devolution we have heard so far.
Unfortunately for them they are not an embodiment of Zimbabwe and what Zimbabweans want cannot be thrown down the drain because of individuals who want to maintain a highly centralised system of government which has failed. It is interesting that Mugabe and Chombo, who coincidentally come from the same area — Zvimba district — want to maintain a system which has mainly benefited their region at the expense of others.
The truth of the matter is devolution in our context is mainly about social justice and equitable distribution of resources. Mugabe and the likes of Chombo are responsible for the current patterns of uneven development in the country and have presided over systematic impoverishment of some regions which are rich in natural resources but don’t benefit because of the failures of central government.
There is overwhelming evidence that regions like Masvingo, Manicaland and Matabeleland have generally been neglected and impoverished by central government even though they have some resources which can be used to develop those areas. For instance, Manicaland is rich in diamonds but the province has nothing to show for it since mining activities started in Marange, except the building of relocation houses to justify displacing people from their lands. The people of Manicaland must benefit from their resources which of course must also be shared nationally.
That is why a diamond polishing company should be located somewhere in Manicaland, not in the Mashonaland region where Mugabe and Chombo come from. Also picture this: Hwange contributes a lot of power to the national grid but most schools in Hwange district have no electricity. Clearly, most areas in the country which have resources around them have not benefited from them.
But Mugabe and Chombo want to pretend that all is well and try to mislead the nation by claiming that devolution of power divides the nation, yet empirical evidence proves that in fact it is the unitary system that is divisive.
At the core of any government is the ability to deliver a sound economy and sound governance to its citizens and that can only be achieved if there is fairness in the distribution of the resources. What is happening now does not at all reflect fairness in the distribution of the national cake.
The reason why people spoke like that on this issue is because it resonates with the majority. Devolution brings power to the people and ensures that those who are governing are accountable to the citizens. This is important because it assists in bringing national stability and cohesion. It is usually the unfair distribution of the national resources that has been at the heart of many conflicts in Africa.
It is important to ensure that we move away from the current two-tier system of government and create provincial governments — which are connected to the national or central government — that are empowered and functional to make important decisions in their provinces. This will entail having provincial assemblies or councils in charge of social and economic development of their areas.
There is also a need to have a functional, small but efficient provincial cabinet or whatever it might be called to spearhead development of those areas. Most importantly there is a need for elected governors to administer provinces which should have some powers to collect taxes and decide on their development prioritises.
This will allow the provincial governments and the governors to focus on the development prioritises of their areas, not the current set-up where they are mere provincial watchdogs for the president.
The representatives for the provincial assemblies together with the governors should be elected either by direct vote or by proportional representation. This should be a simple process because if we already vote for our councillors, MPs, senators and president, why should it be difficult to have elected governors? This arrangement will help different provinces to take charge of their economic development and not wait for central government to do things for them as what happens in a unitary system like the one we have now.
Definitely, devolution is the way to go.
Moyo is the National Organising Secretary of the MDC led by Professor Welshman Ncube. He is contactable on firstname.lastname@example.org.