Minister under fire for brushing devolution aside

HARARE - Government is backtracking on the promised devolution of power which partially found expression in the new Constitution.

In his national budget on Thursday Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa said the idea was not sustainable.

The new Constitution created eight provincial councils with 10 councillors each, envisaged to be elected through proportional representation.

There are also two metropolitan provincial councils — Harare and Bulawayo — that will spearhead development in these respective cities.

Under the proposed arrangement, mayors of Harare and Bulawayo will chair the Harare and Bulawayo metropolitan provinces respectively.

“Funding of the Provincial and Metropolitan structures, as set out in Chapter 14, Section 264 of the Constitution, is not sustainable and political parties represented in Parliament should in the future give consideration to amending the Constitution to lessen the burden on the fiscus,” Chinamasa said in his national budget speech.

Centre for Community Development Zimbabwe director Phillip Pasirayi told the Daily News that there is no political will to implement devolution and the issue of budgetary constraints is just a scapegoat.

He said there is real fear in government that devolution will give the opposition a foothold in rural areas which have traditionally been under Zanu PF control.

“It is not so much about lack of funding for the Provincial and Metropolitan Councils but the ruling party’s unwillingness to share power with the opposition in rural areas which it considers as its strongholds.

“The new administration should immediately establish the Provincial and Metropolitan Councils to show its commitment to upholding the Constitution and respecting the wishes of the people who overwhelmingly voted for the charter,” Pasirayi said.

“If this is truly a new political dispensation as we are being told, then it should be one premised on respect for the Constitution and the rule of law.

“There is no need for political parties to further discuss devolution as suggested by Chinamasa.

“What we are expecting is for the responsible ministry to present a draft bill to Parliament on devolution for debate before enactment into law,” he said.

Local government expert Mfundo Mlilo said Chinamasa’s remarks on devolution were just a political statement with no basis because he cannot go against a constitutional obligation which provides for the provincial and metropolitan councils to be established by government.

“We know that Zanu PF has always been against devolution and using the issue of finances as a scapegoat will not work. How does he know that a policy is not sustainable without trying it out? Where is the cost benefit analysis?

“He has not done any feasibility study or Commission of Inquiry into the benefits of these councils. All this needs to be done before dismissing devolution.

“We need those inquiries to validate whether these councils will succeed or not. Countries such as Kenya and Ghana are examples which Zimbabwe can look to,” he said.

Analyst Kenndy Kennedy Kaitano said when Zanu PF was preparing for the motion to impeach ousted autocrat Robert Mugabe, one of the reasons they raised for the proposed action was that the teetotaller had disregarded the constitutional provision to set up provincial councils.

“One would have expected constitutionally conscious Mnangagwa to do what his boss failed to do,” Kaitano said.

“However, Mnangagwa, a lawyer by training who should have understood the Constitution better than aged Mugabe, ignored this important constitutional provision to create Provincial Councils, and instead, unconstitutionally appointed resident ministers.

“In a country where we have both rural and urban councils and a minister of Local Government who oversees these councils, what really is the purpose of burdening the taxpayer with provincial resident ministers? How many body guards and secretaries, private assistants are assigned to each resident minister?”

The Constitution states that “the President appoints ministers and assigns functions to them, including the administration of any Act of Parliament or of any ministry or department."

“Could Mnangagwa or his special advisor Chris Mutsvangwa tell the nation which Act of Parliament, ministry or government department resident ministers are supposed to look after?

“This was just the same way of giving jobs to Zanu PF boys and girls by president Mnangagwa, just as his mentor Mugabe has done in the past.”

Mnangagwa has said if the people speak, he will listen.

“I am speaking, and I hope others will join me in speaking, and he should fire the resident ministers, or else resign himself for failing to read the Constitution of Zimbabwe,” Kaitano said.