Legislators reject scrapping of devolution

HARARE - Legislators have opposed Executive plans to scrap a constitutional provision that devolves power to provinces.

In his 2018 National Budget, Finance and Economic Planning minister Patrick Chinamasa asked the National Assembly to consider doing away with the clause, arguing that it has created a heavy burden on the fiscus.

Chapter 14 of the national charter deals with devolution of governmental powers.

It provides for the creation of eight provincial councils with 10 councillors each envisaged to be elected through proportional representation.

It further creates two metropolitan provincial councils in Harare and Bulawayo to be chaired by the mayors of these respective cities.

Hatfield MDC MP Tapiwa Mashakada said the minister cannot be allowed to abrogate the Constitution.

“Issues of devolution, provincial councils and so on, those things you cannot negotiate them. They are non-negotiable and the Constitution has to be followed. In law, there is this term which they call progressive realisation.

“You cannot say you do not want to implement the Constitution totally but you must progressively implement those things that are agreed to in the Constitution. So, I beg the minister to come back to the issue of implementing the Constitution in its entirety,” he said.

MDC MP for Harare West Jessie Majome reminded the Emmerson Mnangagwa-led government that failure to uphold the Constitution could result in another overthrow of the ruling regime.

“I am concerned that Chinamasa indicated that instead of going by what His Excellency the President indicated that we are going to observe the Constitution and we are a constitutional government; by the way, we were in the process of impeaching the former president because of not implementing the Constitution, therefore, he must respect the Constitution,” she said, adding Chinamasa cannot be allowed to introduce a Bill to remove provincial councils.

“To amend the Constitution yet again, the second time running before it has been implemented, I think that kind of mind-set calls into question the sincerity of this government around the Constitution,” Majome said referring to the recent passage of the controversial Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 1) Bill which amended Section 180 of the Constitution and gave sole and unfettered discretion to the president to appoint the chief justice, deputy chief justice and judge president of the High Court of his choice whenever there are vacancies for such post.

“How can the minister tell us that provincial councils cost too much money and we want to amend the Constitution to remove them when we have not seen them in operation?

“How much money would it cost to run a provincial council? In my view, provincial councils will not cost much money because the bulk of its officials are already engaged and ensconced in other government institutions. For example, MPs here are already in Parliament.

“A provincial council will not need to give them anything for them to come and sit at meetings, councillors as well. All provincial councils would need an administrative budget, maybe a place to hold meetings, maybe water and stationery.”

Majome said she would be curious to see how much money a provincial council would cost as compared to the budget of a minister of State.

“As far as I am concerned, provincial ministers are unconstitutional creatures. Our Constitution did not establish provincial ministers, who should be called governors. They are a way of sneaking in governors through the back door that the Constitution took out.

“So for the government to tell us and for the minister to want to continue to fund the administration of provincial ministers and refuse to fund provincial councils is hypocrisy. It only does nothing but discredit the sincerity and the bona fides of this government.”

Mutare Central MDC MP Innocent Gonese concurred with Majome, reiterating that appointing Provincial Affairs ministers was ultra vires the Constitution.

“We had a situation where we have got ministers of State, sometimes referred to as provincial governors. I want to say that this is against the spirit of the Constitution. We must move with speed.

“I was really concerned by the statement by the minister that they may want to amend the Constitution to remove the provision which relates to the appointment of provincial councils.

“I want to say, let us abide by the spirit of the Constitution and instead of amending the provision relating to provincial councils, let us not persist with the appointment of provincial ministers which is against the spirit of the Constitution.”

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