Devolution of power is the direction to go


HARARE – When the current Zimbabwean Constitution came into effect in 2013, one of the major highlights of the new charter was its focus on re-orienting the governance of the country.

The fact that the whole life of a Parliament has come to an end without having this key provision implemented shows just how rigid former president Robert Mugabe was in changing the status quo.

Somehow it also shows that Emmerson Mnangagwa — who took over from Mugabe following a military intervention in November last year — has signalled he could be doing things differently.

Provincial councils could indeed be coming given that the just-ended elections came up with proportional representation MPs. Opposition political parties and some civic society groups were for decentralisation of government while Zanu PF earlier insisted on having central government continue to run the show.

The Constitution provides for eight provincial councils and two metropolitan provincial councils that will spearhead local development and given that provincial officials will be based in the very areas they lead implying they will interface with the challenges of those very communities.

It is expected that the mayors of Harare and Bulawayo will chair the Harare and Bulawayo metropolitan provinces respectively. This development will bring in a completely new layer of governance between local and national with all 270 members of the National Assembly, including the special women members elected on proportional representation, and 78 of the 80 senators as members of one provincial or metropolitan council. The only exceptions will be the two senators representing people living with disabilities.

The eight provincial and two metropolitan councils have broad functions sketched in the Constitution.

The Mugabe administration did not seem keen to accept devolution of power. The new governance phenomenon will no doubt prove to be the game-changer, especially in rural development, which had continued to lag behind the metropoles.

Inadvertently, this had led to disparities in development between the cities and rural areas while the seat of government — Harare — continued to enjoy the bigger chunk of the developmental cake.

The provincial administration will remove the burden — from the shoulders of central government — of social and economic development of the province, including: planning and implementing social and economic development activities, co-coordinating and implementing governmental programmes, planning and implementing measures for the conservation, improvement and management of natural resources, promoting tourism and developing facilities for that purpose, monitoring and evaluating the use of resources.