'Devolution process taking too long'

HARARE - Government should hasten and develop legislation to govern the overdue process of devolution, the Centre for Community Development in Zimbabwe (CCDZ) and the Harare Residents Trust (HRT) have said.

The two organisations recently presented a joint paper to the local government, public works and national housing Ministry, outlining stakeholders’ concerns and issues regarding the urgent and long overdue establishment and operationalisation of Provincial and Metropolitan Councils (PMCs).

“Since the adoption of the new Constitution in 2013, the government has not yet crafted legislation to devolve power to provincial and metropolitan councils. Rather there have been reversals and an attempt to completely do away with Provincial and Metropolitan Councils to scuttle devolution,” noted the organisations.

The CCDZ and HRT highlighted that the Zimbabwean Constitution Amendment (No. 20) Act 2013 provides the framework for devolution of governmental powers and responsibilities in Section 264.

In the paper, both organisations noted that the process of crafting devolution legislation must be participatory and time-bound.

“It is our expectation that the Portfolio Committee will convene public hearings at provincial and district level to allow members of the public to comment and give input into the Provincial and Metropolitan Councils bill,” reads the paper.

“The crafting of the Provincial and Metropolitan Councils bill and its adoption by parliament and presidential assent must be done expeditiously no later than 31th January 2019, to allow electedProvincial and Metro Councillors to take oath of office by 1st March 2019.”

According the paper, the process has dragged for too long and the new dispensation should allow devolution of power to PMCs.

“The establishment of Provincial and Metropolitan Councils (PMCs) as spelled out in Chapter 14 of the Constitution is long overdue. It is against this background that CCDZ and HRT continue to engage government and parliament on the need for comprehensive local government reforms including crafting legislation to allow devolution of power to Provincial and Metropolitan Councils as opposed to the piecemeal approach of the old dispensation,” said the organisations.

CCDZ and HRT noted that devolution of power to local and provincial councils will help to achieve fair and balanced development through PMCs, which are allowed by the constitution to set local development priorities.

“Governmental powers must be devolved to the local people so that there is increased transparency and accountability in governance and decision-making as well as management of public affairs and resources by local authorities,” reads the paper.

The organisations also made recommendations on the funding, structure and functions of the PMCs.

In the paper the CCDZ and HRT condemned the Local Government Amendment Act passed by government in 2016, noting that it only hindered the constitutional provisions on devolution as it awarded central government wide powers to interfere with the operations of local authorities and dismiss democratically-elected chairpersons and mayors.

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