Govt not yet ready to devolve power

HARARE - Government is not yet ready to set up provincial and metropolitan councils, the Local Government ministry has said.

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.

Permanent secretary in the Local Government ministry George Magosvongwe said the ministry was still to consult the various stakeholders on the process.

Magosvongwe’s remarks come as residents associations and civil society are mounting pressure on government to set-up metropolitan and provincial councils in adherence to the principle of devolution.

“At this stage, it is premature for me to give an indication as to the progress made to date as we are still consulting and drafting regulations. I however, welcome any contributions to this process from all interested persons as this will greatly assist and enrich the process,” Magosvongwe said.

He said the issue of devolution will start from the centre to the provinces and will include the district, ward, village and traditional structures that will superintend the living styles, standards and traditional practices of the communities.

Magosvongwe said the implementation will be done in accordance to the law after amendments to the Councils and Administration Act and other related Acts to conform to the Constitution.

“Simply put, devolution will see the transfer of powers and responsibilities from central to provincial councils, metropolitan councils and local authorities. The powers and responsibilities to be devolved include powers to formulate budgets and implementing them effectively an on time to produce good services.

“All the decision-making powers pertaining to the planning and implementation of provincial development projects and programs will be vested in the councils. Local authorities will be the engines and drivers of economic growth. Their communities will have participatory democracy and must derive direct benefit from the exploitation of resources in their areas,” the permanent secretary said.

Centre for Community Development Zimbabwe director Philip Pasirayi said the citizens who voted on July 30 for provincial and metropolitan councils are expecting these institutions to be established and operationalised so that they can start to spearhead development in the provinces and districts

Pasirayi said the councils are important institutions that will bring government closer to the people and allow citizens to fully participate in state affairs at the local level.

“There is need now on the part of government to move with speed and win over sceptics through implementation of the constitutional provisions on devolution and establish the provincial and metropolitan councils without further delay. The recent appointment of provincial affairs ministers by President Emmerson Mnangagwa has, however, cast further doubt on the new administration’s sincerity in implementing devolution,” Pasirayi said.

Under the Constitution, there is no provision for the appointment of ministers for provincial affairs or provincial governors.

Instead, the Constitution contains new provisions for the devolution of governmental powers and responsibilities to provincial and metropolitan councils, constituted by a province’s MPs, the mayors and chairpersons of the province’s local authorities and, in the case of the eight provincial councils, 10 persons elected to the council by a system of proportional representation as part of every general election. It is these councils which should be responsible for provincial affairs.

The elected provincial councillors for each provincial council were formally elected as part of the July 2013 general election, but apart from that nothing has been done to implement the new constitutional provisions.

Legal watchdog Veritas said unless President Mnangagwa moves speedily to put things right by getting legislation enacted to implement the constitutional provisions concerned, they will, once again, be councillors in name only, with nothing to do. 

In the meantime, those that are appointed as ministers of State for provincial affairs can only carry out whatever functions the president gives them, but only provided such functions are permitted by law.

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