‘Opaque’ devolution clause rejected

Brian Chitemba
THE Matabeleland Civic Society Forum (MCSF) has rejected the latest draft constitution’s “opaque” section on devolution and is demanding the insertion of a comprehensive clause guaranteeing serious decentralisation of power.
MCSF, a grouping of 36 civil society organisations, wants the new constitution to clearly define devolution and insert clauses calling for popularly elected governors with clear executive powers and elected provincial legislators.
Chapter 14.1 of the draft completed last week states: “Whenever appropriate, government powers and responsibilities must be devolved to provincial, metropolitan councils and local authorities, which are competent to carry out those responsibilities efficiently and effectively.”
MSCF wants provincial governments to be given power to collect and use revenue in their areas of jurisdiction as well as formulate laws and policies on natural resources use and benefit for communities.
MCSF spokesperson Dumisani Nkomo said people in Matabeleland want full devolution of power and not devolution in instalments.
Nkomo said there was still room for comprehensive devolution to be included in the new constitution if the draft is adopted, given that there is a chance to air views at the stakeholders’ conference and in parliament.
“Civil society understands that the process is still incomplete and we will make more contributions at the second all-stakeholders’ conference because what we want are directly elected governors and not partial decentralisation,” said Nkomo.
Nkomo said six out of the country’s 10 provinces supported devolution during Copac outreach programmes and if the people’s views were properly captured in the drafting process, full devolution would have been clearly defined in the charter.
He also said devolution of power was linked to development and it is therefore “a critical component of good governance, sound public administration, equitable resource allocation and prudent public finance stewardship”.
Nkomo said failure to include these key issues in the final draft would leave the MCSF with no choice but to campaign for a “No” vote in the referendum.
The Matabeleland Constitutional Reform Agenda has also dismissed the draft saying it was a “victory for retrogressive forces”.
The group’s Effie Ncube said the inclusion of a watered-down devolution in the draft constitution was testimony to the existence of powerful forces opposed to democracy and equality.
Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association spokesperson Rodrick Fayayo said the draft represents views of the three political parties and not what the people want.
“The manner in which the appointment of governors is put in the draft is such that it intends to deal with the current and not future realities,” said Fayayo.

“All along people have been saying they want an elected governor while Zanu PF has been saying they want appointed governors. Now the draft is a compromise on the two. It provides for indirect election and indirect appointment of governors.”

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