The three arms of the government –– the executive, legislature and judiciary –– are all housed in Harare and there is nothing to show that Bulawayo is the country’s second largest city.
Unlike in South Africa where the seat of government is in the capital Pretoria while the legislature is in Cape Town and the Supreme Court of Appeals is in Bloemfontein, all critical government departments in Zimbabwe are located in Harare. Johannesburg is South Africa’s commercial hub.
But everything is so centralised in Zimbabwe that it is almost impossible to get anything done if one lives outside Harare.
It is in this vein that Industry and Commerce minister and MDC president, Welshman Ncube, is seeking to change the status quo and have Bulawayo declared Zimbabwe’s legislative capital.
Ncube, who is also a law professor, told the Zimbabwe Independent this week that his proposal to have parliament relocated to Bulawayo was feasible because the inclusive government already had plans to construct a new parliamentary building to accommodate the House of Assembly and its 210 MPs as well as the upper house senate and its 93 members.
The Chinese government had agreed to help build the new parliament building at a cost of US$10 million in the Kopje area in the capital and Ncube is arguing that instead of erecting the new structure in the capital, Bulawayo was a better option because of socio-economic and political benefits likely to cascade to the region.
He said relocating parliament to Bulawayo would boost the confidence of Matabeleland people in the system who have been complaining of unfulfilled promises and perceived marginalisation.
Underdevelopment and seeming marginalisation have resulted in the formation of some radical groups such as the Mthwakazi Liberation Front which advocates for secession of Matabeleland from the rest of the country.
Ncube also believes that moving parliament to Matabeleland would bring members of the executive closer to problems that have sparked complaints in the region over the years.
“We want the ministers to be in Matabeleland where people talk about marginalisation and de-industrialisation so that they appreciate the challenges, said Ncube.
He said construction of a new parliament in Bulawayo would create jobs to absorb thousands of unemployed youths while the parliamentary budget through accommodation and food costs would directly benefit the Matabeleland food, hotel and transport sectors.
“There will be more economic and political activity since Bulawayo is always quiet,” Ncube said.
Political commentator and activist Rodrick Fayayo said relocating parliament to Bulawayo was feasible and the only thing needed was the political will.
Fayayo concurred with Ncube that if parliament relocated to Bulawayo, business would be revived while other critical offices such as foreign embassies may be encouraged to have sub-offices in the city.
“Indeed with the closure and flight of industries, it provides a basis for the reindustrialisation of the city,” said Fayayo. “A lot of young men and women who have no jobs shall be absorbed by the massive construction. Anybody who opposes that opposes the livelihood of the people of the region and that is untenable,” Fayayo said.
Habakkuk Trust chief executive officer Dumisani Nkomo said it was not a bad idea to move parliament to Bulawayo because in other countries the legislature was not necessarily in the capital.
“It would be expensive but could generate more economic activity in Bulawayo as a result of more parliamentary activities,” said Nkomo. “People will also have access to decision-makers but of course the initial cost will be very high,” he said.
Political analyst Blessing Vava said if resources permitted, it puts to rest the notion that everything should be conducted in Harare while for the people of Bulawayo it would help in having ownership of important national institutions that have a direct impact on their everyday lives.
“The notion that laws are made in Harare is wrong because Zimbabwe is not Harare or vice-versa,” said Vava. “It will somehow bring infrastructural development to the region, boost in hotels, employment creation to the locals and a boost in tourism,” he said.