Devolution: The way forward

Edmore Ndudzo
The preamble to Chapter 14 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 20), which deals with provincial and local Government, states that:

“Whereas it is desirable to ensure:

  1. a) The preservation of national unity in Zimbabwe and the prevention of all forms of disunity and secessionism.
  2. b) The democratic participation in Government, of all citizens and communities of Zimbabwe and;
  3. c) The equitable allocation of national resources and the participation of local communities in the determination of development priorities within their areas

There must be devolution of power and responsibilities to lower tiers of Government in Zimbabwe.”

The rest of the same chapter details various issues such as:

  1. a) Part 1 (Preliminary)

(i)  Section 264: Devolution of Government powers and responsibilities

  1. ii) Section 265: General Principals of Provincial and Local Government.

iii) Section 266: Conduct of Employees of Provincial and Local Governments.

  1. b) Part 2 (Provinces and Provincial and Metropolitan Councils)

(i) Section 267: Provinces and Districts of Zimbabwe.

(ii) Section 268: Provincial Councils

(iii) Section 269: Metropolitan Councils

(iv) Section 270: Functions of Provincial and Metropolitan Councils

(v) Section 271: Committees of Provincial Councils

(vi) Section 272: Chairpersons of Provincial Councils

(vii) Section 273: General Provisions, relating to Provincial and Metropolitan Councils

  1. c) Part 3 (Local Government)

(i) Section 274: Urban Local Authorities

(ii) Section 275: Local Authorities for Rural Areas

(iii) Section 276: Functions of Local Authorities

(iv) Section 277: Election to Local Authorities

(v) Section 278: Tenure of Seats of Members of Local Authorities

(vi) Section 279: Procedure of Local Authorities

Section 267 already mentioned above — on Provinces and Districts of Zimbabwe — outlines then 10 provinces into which the country is divided, and these are:

  1. a) Bulawayo Metropolitan Province
  2. b) Harare Metropolitan Province
  3. c) Manicaland Province
  4. d) Mashonaland Central Province
  5. e) Mashonaland East Province
  6. f) Mashonaland West Province
  7. g) Masvingo Province
  8. h) Matabeleland North Province
  9. i) Matabeleland South Province and
  10. j) Midlands Province

The provincial boundaries are fixed under an Act of Parliament.

Section 267 also stipulates that an Act of Parliament:

  1. a) Must provide for the division of Provinces into Districts, and that
  2. b) Such as Act may also provide for the alteration of Provincial and District Boundaries, after consultation with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, and the people in the Provinces and Districts concerned.

The composition or make-up of Provincial Councils and Metropolitan Councils is also detailed in Sections 268 and 269, respectively.

Further, the functions of Provincial and Metropolitan Councils are outlined in Section 270 as follows:

Under Subsection (1): A Provincial and Metropolitan Council is responsible for the social and economic development of its province, including:

  1. a) Planning and implementing social and economic development activities in its province.
  2. b) Co-ordinating and implementing Government programmes in the province
  3. c) Planning and implementing measures for the conservation, improvements and management of national resources.
  4. d) Promoting tourism in its Province and developing facilities for that purpose.
  5. e) Monitoring and evaluating the use of resources in its Province and
  6. f) Exercising any other functions, including legislative functions, that may be conferred or imposed on it by or under an Act of Parliament.

Under Subsection (2) of the same Section, an Act of Parliament must provide for the establishment, structure and staff of Provincial and Metropolitan Councils, and the manner in which they exercise their functions.

Lastly, under Subsection 3 of this Section, Members of a Provincial or Metropolitan Council are accountable — collectively and individually — to residents of their Province and national Government for the exercise of their functions.

Also, and importantly too, under Section 271, for the better exercise of their functions, Provincial and Metropolitan Councils may establish committees, but each such committee must be presided over (chaired) by a member referred to in Section 268(1)h or 269 (1)h, as the case may be.

These particular Subsections relate to Persons elected by a system of Proportional representation to their positions.

Since the promulgation of the new Constitution (2013), these elaborate and cumbersome structures and systems have not materialised owing to financial constraints.

But there now seems to be political will and traction to effect these key constitutional provisions.

And there seems to be consensus from both Government and the opposition parties.

As a matter of fact, devolution is the brainchild of the MDC formation, which was previously led by Professor Arthur Mutambara.

It’s undoubtable that Provincial and Metropolitan Councils will soon become reality. In fact, the likely members of these councils seem to have already been nominated by the main political parties contesting in the July 2018 harmonised elections.

An article I once wrote in 2016, which was titled “The Provinces of Zimbabwe- Food for Thought”, I proposed cutting the number of provinces by half, especially given Zimbabwe’s population of about 13 million people and its total land area, which stands at 39 million hectares.

My view is that this set up is both unwieldy and cumbersome for Zimbabwe’s geographical size and population.

South Africa, for example, has nine provinces despite boasting of a 55 million population and a total land area that is four times the size of Zimbabwe.

I still maintain that a local Governance structure with six provinces will suffice. It will also be shorn of tribal, divisive and undesirable connotations.

The envisaged structure would also have felled regionalism in one fell swoop.

However, it is my view that the current scenario engenders fertile ground for divisive and secessionist characters.

My proposals then involved renaming and reconfiguring provinces by population size and ecological regions.

Zimbabwe is currently, incidentally and coincidentally, also divided into six ecological regions; namely, I, IIA and IIB, III, IV and V.

I have no qualms or problems with Bulawayo being a Metropolitan Province on its own and being an industrial hub for the nation, but this will have the unwanted effect of increasing the number of provinces to seven.

The structure of the local football governing body, the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) might be instructive.

There are currently four footballing regions — Northern Region, Eastern Region, Southern Region and Central Region — and this has worked well for them.

It is also the same with Delta, the country’s biggest beverage manufacturer, which, in presenting its financials, would routinely split the country into two: the Northern Region and Southern Region.

Also, I have never been a fan of Provincial and Metropolitan Councils because this would create another cost centre for Government, especially at a time when the fiscus is weighed by disproportionately high recurrent expenditures.

A three-tier governance system was also likely to result in bureaucratic sloth.

But as Government has committed to devolution, there are new proposals that I think will be helpful.

  1. There should be retention of central Government functions for essential national public services such as the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF), Zimbabwe Republic Police and National Correctional Services. However, all other national services can be devolved and superintended Provincial Councils.

The concept of devolution is not exactly the same as decentralisation. Devolution is much broader and deeper.

  1. Each financial year, each and every Province, is expected to draw up and pass its Provincial Budget in line with provisions of the Public Finance Management Act of 2009; which Budgets are then only consolidated by the Accountant-General (Ministry of Finance) into a National Budget.

Each Provincial Budget, with the exception of the National Budget, must be balanced.

Provincial Councils are already allowed to levy or charge local taxes (such as rates) and make other charges in their areas of jurisdictions in terms of both the new Constitution and or the Urban Councils Act and Rural District Act, including other relevant legislation.

  1. In addition, Provincial Councils’ activities may and should now be funded by some revenues such as royalties derived directly from natural resource found in their areas and/ or grants made by Central Government.

It also provides scope for Government to support other provinces that might not be richly endowed.

Some needed and crucial services or infrastructure, such as Roads, may spread and cut across Provinces, and the financing and funding systems have to be appropriately structured and agreed and enacted.

A whole host of other tax heads, levies and charges, including royalties paid for mineral extraction.

This may be split on the basis of an agreed and worked out formulae between Provinces and central Government.

  1. In the evolving scenario going forward, the role of Provincial Chairpersons became more like that of the current Provincial Structures in South Africa, with the Provincial Councils being like Provincial Legislative Bodies in that respect and Provincial Chairperson being more like the Provincial Premiers’.
  2. Some key Acts of Parliament, particularly and specifically the Urban Councils Act and the combined Rural District Act, will require urgent and very necessary alignments, with the new and evolving Constitutional dispensation and position so as to prevent and eliminate any disconnection and disharmony between and among various pieces of legislation, including also various Statutory Instruments, among other such mandatory and prevailing legal and policy instruments.

 

By E.A.M Ndudzo CA (Z), CPA (Z), RPAA (Z), IOD (Z), B. Acc and SAA First Black City Treasurer of City of Harare. Lead Consultant in crafting and compilation of the Public Finance Management Act of 2009. He is also a Land Commissioner of Zimbabwe. He writes in his personal capacity.

 

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