The Sunday Mail
Government has set in motion processes to fine-tune the National Constitution and related statutory laws to exclude legislators from provincial and metropolitan councils under the devolution model meant to spearhead social and economic development across the country.
Provincial and metropolitan councils are provided for under Section 268 (Chapter 14) of the National Constitution with legislators meant to be members of councils.
However, there is concern over the inclusion of legislators in the provincial and metropolitan councils, with legal experts arguing this would hamper the oversight role of Parliament.
The Sunday Mail has gathered that the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, in whose ambit the devolution agenda rests, together with the Attorney General’s office is currently drafting enabling legislation for the decentralisation drive.
The proposals will soon be taken to Cabinet and Parliament.
Government is also working on rectifying the issue of proportional representation of councillors and chairpersons in metropolitan councils.
Currently there are no proportional representation councillors in Harare and Bulawayo metropolitans.
It is understood that another grey area is on the provision to have the mayor of the largest city in the province as chairperson of the council to be deputised by the mayor of the second largest town in that province.
However, Bulawayo Metropolitan does not have a second largest town.
In an interview, Minister for Local Government, Public Works and National Housing July Moyo said Government was in the process of fine-tuning various areas to enable the smooth roll out of the devolution agenda.
“There is a contradiction when it comes to financial regulations in chapter 17, Parliament has the overall supervision of all expenditures,” he said.
“Members of Parliament are the ones that vote in Parliament for the funds used at metropolitan and provincial councils.
“So if there is abuse of funds at these councils, do you expect the same legislators to condemn the abuse of funds in Parliament when they in turn are part of the provincial councils?
“There is a conflict of interest that is what the President is talking about. That is why we must correct it.
“Cabinet has already approved principles which are already in the Constitution, including pointed out contradictions.
“Right now we are drafting the enabling legislation which includes the contradictions, the legal drafting is done by the Attorney General.
“The Attorney General will propose how we get out of this, I will take the proposals to cabinet and from there I will take it to Parliament.
“Parliament will then decide the way forward, through the Parliamentary legal committee. If it fails we then take to Constitutional court. We will come up with a solution that will make us continue with devolution.
“The first aspect of devolution to comply with the constitution and point out the contradictions with the constitution, that we are now advanced.
“The second aspect is the provincial council, however, when it comes to metropolitan councils which is Harare and Bulawayo, the Constitution says the chairman is supposed to be a mayor of Harare deputized by the second largest town’s mayor which is Chitungwiza, but in Bulawayo the mayor does not have a deputy (coming from the second largest town).
“In addition Harare and Bulawayo do not have 10 councils elected on proportional representation. “We have to seek solutions through Cabinet and Parliament on these matters. These are some of these issues we are grappling with on Constitution and statutory laws.”
Minister Moyo also highlighted that Government would come up with a criteria on how the budget allocation to provincial councils would be distributed equitably.
In 2019 budget Government has already set aside $310 million for the operationalisation of provincial councils.
Minister Moyo said under the devolution model, provincial councils will be allowed to hire their own personal without interference from the central Government.
“What is necessary now is we have 10 provincial councils and 92 local authorities, we have $310 million, how are we going to give to each, we have to put it in statutes so that there is a criteria on how the money will distributed,” he said.
“In terms of human resources, provincial councils and local authorities will be allowed to hire their own personnel, however when it comes to Town Clerk, deputy Town Clerk, heads of departments and their deputies, their names will forwarded to the Local Government Board for approval.
“We are still debating further on operational mechanisms because local authorities have by- laws, so what will the provincial councils have? Other jurisdictions are saying provincial councils will have ordinances.
“Both by laws and ordinances have legislative powers. This is what we want in devolution; we want the local authorities to have powers.
“Their by-laws and ordinances will however have to go through the responsible Minister and then to the Attorney General.”
Minister Moyo said Government would aggregate provincial GDP for competitiveness purposes, a system modelled around China’s devolution structure.
The councils will be required to come up with Regional Investment and Development Master Plans, which derive from the National Investment and Development Master Plan.
In his inauguration speech President Mnangagwa said: “As per our pledge during the campaign trail, my Government will be implementing the Constitutional provisions with regards the devolution of Government powers and responsibilities. Provinces will now be expected to plan and grow their provincial economies.”