The Sunday Mail
THE Government of Zimbabwe is committed to the elimination of marginalisation and achieving the ideals of Vision 2030. This can be seen through its robust dedication to the devolution programme. At the highest level, His Excellency President Mnangagwa chairs the Cabinet Committee on Devolution and Economic Development of Provinces and Local Authorities while the Minister of Local Government and Public Works, Honourable July Moyo, is the vice chair. Minister Moyo’s ministry is mandated to facilitate devolution. Below, Sikhanyisiwe Ncube, the principal communications and advocacy officer in the ministry speaks to Minister Moyo.
Q: What is devolution and what is the Government trying to achieve?
A: Devolution entails transferring of certain powers to lower tiers of Government. In our case, this involves the 10 provinces and 92 local authorities that make up this country. In embarking on devolution, Government is fulfilling the constitutional requirements captured in Chapters 14, 15 and 17 of the 2013 Constitution. The philosophy of devolution emanates from the realisation that communities will get more involved in the development agenda if they are given decision-making powers.
Q: To what extent is power devolved in Zimbabwe?
A: In Zimbabwe, local authorities have the power to make a lot of decisions as reflected in the Urban Councils Act (Chapter 29:15) and the Rural District Councils Act (Chapter 29:13). This includes coming up with appropriate by-laws, raising local taxes in the form of fees, licences, rates, charges and fines.
They are also empowered to spend resources in accordance with their budgets. The introduction of the mandatory Intergovernmental Fiscal Transfers under Section 301 of the Constitution has further enhanced decentralisation of decision-making in Zimbabwe as local authorities now have more resources at their disposal.
Q: Does this imply some form of autonomy for local authorities?
A: The Constitution stresses that we remain a unitary state. This means that when we refer to central, provincial and local government, it’s a seamless administrative structure and therefore the principle of subsidiarity applies. They remain subsidiary to central Government. They will be guided by central Government because the laws that govern what they do are made by central Government. For instance, while they run certain schools, the Education Act is administered by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education. The same applies to health issues. Guidelines and supervision in some areas will come from central Government.
When we talk of a unitary state we are simply saying Zimbabwe is indivisible and therefore whatever happens in Bulawayo or Harare must be in sync with the national decisions and should be in line with the Constitution. The priorities of the nation override those of the province or local authority. Ultimately, while people would have been given autonomy to make certain decisions, they should also be of national interest.
Q: Have you noted any significant progress in the implementation of the devolution programme?
A: There is progress considering that we commenced disbursements systematically in 2019 with Government allocating $703 million and committing $2,9 billion this year so that this programme accelerates. I’m convinced that we made tremendous progress in a very short period.
When the first disbursements were made, most stakeholders felt that our lower tiers of Government would not have the capacity to utilise these resources.
I am pleased to report that despite glitches here and there, central Government’s confidence in the performance of local authorities has not been misplaced. These resources have been utilised effectively and efficiently with communities attesting to some of the projects on the ground.
Devolution has activated greater involvement of Ministers of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution as well as central Government and local government officials in economic development initiatives and this is key as we work on achieving Vision 2030.
Q: Which projects are supposed to be implemented?
A: Section 301 of the Constitution stipulates the usage of Intergovernmental Fiscal Transfers. The Constitution notes the need to address economic disparities, focusing on issues of national interest, the provision of basic services, among other issues. In essence, the projects should address marginalisation.
Q: Is there a monitoring mechanism for purposes of accountability?
A: There are vast mechanisms in place to monitor devolution projects and programmes. Ministers of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution play a key role in monitoring. The Auditor-General, Treasury, my ministry, and relevant committees within the local authorities are involved in monitoring.
The local population also plays a key role in holding officials accountable. I am pleased that local authorities have made progress in producing audited accounts and doing so within the stipulated time- frames. This restores confidence and enhanced accountability.
Q: How do you allocate the funds?
A: Government has developed a formula focused on poverty levels, population size as well as infrastructure development as a way of distributing resources.
Q: What is your take on what has been done so far?
A: When you look at our work output in 2018 compared to 2019, there has been a renewed vigour by the Ministers of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution because they can intervene. Using Cyclone Idai as an example, if we didn’t have the devolution agenda we would not have achieved much.
The amount of work that was done by the Ministers of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution, and the rest of the provincial and district structures is of great magnitude. There is a lot of enthusiasm and local initiative in overcoming some challenges without waiting for Harare to come and assist.
Devolution projects are there on the ground already. My ministry is encouraging the branding and labelling of all equipment and material purchased through devolution transfers so that the public is aware of the usage of such transfers. Last year was a learning curve and we hope to see accelerated implementation this year.
Q: Is central Government prepared to give away power?
A: The Second Republic has made devolution the hallmark of its governance. His Excellency the President has already shown commitment to the cause of devolution and called upon communities to take advantage of their respective comparative advantages. This by extension underscores central Government’s commitment to give away power.
Q: Explain the importance of growing provincial economies through devolution.
A: As mentioned earlier, devolution entails empowering local communities to find solutions to their socio-economic challenges. They are the ones most knowledgeable about their local resources.
Through devolution, provinces and local authorities are being challenged to meticulously assess their current economic situation by focusing on harnessing resources at their disposal. They are expected to come up with integrated development plans aligned to national strategies. This competition among the provinces should spur a dynamic economic environment in Zimbabwe characterised by rapid growth leading to Vision 2030.
Q: When can we say we have completely devolved as a nation?
A: Devolution is an evolving process, which will be guided by our experiences. Countries which have kick-started the devolution process are still right-sizing their devolution agenda. So we will continue looking into it.