With respect to the changes to the devolution clauses, the starting point is acknowledging Zanu PF’s unequivocal, absolute and indisputable lack of commitment to devolution. Eight years after the new constitution was promulgated, there is no implementation of most devolution provisions in Chapter 14, Sections 264 to 273. Why? Why have these clauses not seen the light of day!
More specifically, Section 264(1) stipulates that: ‘Whenever appropriate, governmental powers and responsibilities must be devolved to provincial and metropolitan councils and local authorities which are competent to carry out those responsibilities efficiently and effectively.’
Section 264(2) outlines ‘the objectives of the devolution of governmental powers and responsibilities to provincial and metropolitan councils and local authorities’ which include (a) ‘to give powers of local governance to the people and enhance their participation in the exercise of the powers of the State and in making decisions affecting them’ and (b) ‘to promote democratic, effective, transparent, accountable and coherent government in Zimbabwe as a whole;’ …. (d) ‘to recognise the right of communities to manage their own affairs and to further their development’; (e) ‘to ensure the equitable sharing of local and national resources; and (f) ‘to transfer responsibilities and resources from the national government in order to establish a sound financial base for each provincial and metropolitan council and local authority.’
Needless to say, eight years later, the envisaged metropolitan and provincial councils, and the prescribed leadership thereof, have not been established. None of the stated objectives of devolution has been achieved. There has not been even a feeble or measly effort by the Zanu PF government towards their attainment. Why is this the case?
Now it is being suggested that Amendment No. 2 is promotive of devolution. If Zanu PF despises devolution and has done nothing to advance the principle in eight years, why would they make changes to enhance devolution in May 2021? That is illogical. Zanu PF changes to the devolution clauses can only be meant to undermine and negate local governance and devolved authority.
There are two primary sources of Zanu PF’s discomfort with devolution (a) total aversion to devolved power in principle and (b) fear of opposition control of provincial councils (PCs) in particular metropolitan councils (MCs). There are three key MCs – Bulawayo, Harare and Mutare — which the opposition will dominate. This is a major concern to Zanu PF.
Clearly, the Amendment No. 2 devolution changes are meant to undermine local governance by creating weaker councils while adding more power, authority and resources to the central government.
The objective of removing MPs from the membership of PCs and MCs is two-fold: (a) undermine the opposition-controlled MCs and (b) undermine the stature and impact of PCs and MCs. The change to merge provisions relating to PCs and MCs is meant to undermine MCs, which are likely to be dominated by the opposition. For example, according to the changes, MCs will no longer be chaired by mayors (mostly from the opposition) but officials elected in terms of Section 272 like PCs.
The new provision for the election of 10 of the members of MCs by a party-list proportional representation system allows Zanu PF to have members in MCs, where it has zero MPs or councillors. As already explained, the opposition dominates the key MCs such as Bulawayo, Harare and Mutare.
Amendment No. 2. Zanu PF seeks to break this control. Removing mayors from chairing of MCs is meant to undermine these opposition-controlled MCs. It is as simple as that. It is not rocket science. It is common sense.
Some have said MPs could not sit in PCs or MCs because Parliament must ‘supervise’ PCs and MCs, and so there will be a conflict of interest. What retarded thinking! Arrested intellectual development for sure! Who says Parliament must supervise PCs and MCs? Whose flimsy idea is that? Obviously, that is not devolution. PCs and MCs must be empowered, independent and well-resourced so that they provide strong local governance.
Responsibilities and resources must be ‘transferred from the national government in order to establish a sound financial base for each provincial and metropolitan council’ as stipulated by the supreme law — the National Constitution. Clearly, it is pure and unadulterated dishonesty and duplicitous conduct to say that Amendment No. 2 enhances devolution. It does the opposite!
Mutambara is former deputy prime minister during the Government of National Unity (2009-2013).