'Devolution excites but …'

HARARE - Before government could roll out devolution, it is critical for President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration to first embrace the initiative wholeheartedly.

The Constitution provides for eight provincial councils and two metropolitan provincial councils to spearhead local development.

Despite its promulgation in 2013, Zanu PF under former president Robert Mugabe was not keen on implementing the initiative.

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.

On Sunday, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said his government will soon implement devolution.

During his inauguration on Sunday, he said provinces should come up with plans on how the regions would be developed.

“Local authorities should be the development engines in the second republic. It will not be easy,” he said.

Analysts told the Daily News yesterday that the process will only be successful if there was political will.

Piers Pigou, a senior consultant at the International Crisis Group, said genuine devolution required a dilution of centralised control.

He said while it is a constitutional imperative, very little work was done on the first five years following the adoption of the Constitution.

“It remains to be seen how other devolutionary aspects in the Constitution will be addressed,” said Pigou.

“The appointment of councils will be very interesting and is an important indicator to see the extend to which Mnangagwa is prepared to reach out beyond traditional Zanu PF patronage networks, we have to watch out that space and see the transparent and accountability of the appointment process.”

Devolution entails that the provincial administration will remove the burden of social and economic development of the province, including planning and implementing social and economic development activities, from the shoulders of central government.

It will also remove from central government the coordination, implementation, planning and management of programmes including natural resources, promoting tourism and developing facilities for that purpose, monitoring and evaluating the use of resources.

Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said any form of devolution was a good step for Zimbabwe.

“I hope the provincial councils will be given enough room to determine their budgets and development priorities. I hope they will be able to engage citizens in participatory development and get necessary budget support from the central governments,” he said.

“Mnangagwa really needs 360 degrees transformation to allow genuine devolution. I see obvious challenges coming from his office, the party and war veterans who may not want provincial governors to be very powerful to the extent of not needing the party.”

Saungweme said devolution will allow the development of other provinces who have been marginalised for long.

“I hope they will also be allowed to use revenues they generate locally to develop their areas. But given how our Constitution centralises power in the central government and the office of the president.

“In short it’s a good political and development experiment that may just be a pilot project in the next five years as it takes more than just inauguration speeches to change the mind-sets of those in the closed and centralised political system to fully roll down devolution.”


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