The Sunday Mail
Dr Joram Gumbo
We publish the Presidential policy guidelines on the devolution and decentralisation of governance. These guidelines, which were signed off by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, were presented in Cabinet by Minister of State for Presidential Affairs in charge of Implementation and Monitoring, Dr Joram Gumbo.
Chapters 14, 15 and 17 of our Constitution present devolution as one of the founding values and principles of the Constitution.
In recognition of its paramount importance, my Government has made the implementation of the devolution and decentralisation programme a key strategy of the country’s development agenda.
Indeed, the devolution and decentralisation programme features prominently in our socio-economic development roadmap, Vision 2030, as well as in the Transitional Stabilisation Programme and indeed, the 2019 National Budget. Whereas the Constitution provides broad parameters on the Zimbabwe devolution agenda, there still exist some ambiguities, gaps and inadequacies that must be addressed in order to guarantee the effective implementation of the devolution and decentralisation programme.
These policy guidelines, thus, provide framework on the basis of which a cogent and comprehensive devolution and decentralisation policy should be developed.
Objectives of the devolution and decentralisation programme
The Zimbabwe devolution and decentralisation programme is anchored on the overriding objective of promoting sustainable, representative, accountable, participatory and inclusive governance and socio-economic development in the country. In essence, the policy will deepen our democracy and bring Government services closer to the people.
More precisely, the programme is premised on the attainment of the following objectives:
to give powers of local governance to the people and enhance their participation in the exercise of the powers of the State and in making decisions on issues affecting them;
to promote a democratic, effective, transparent, accountable and coherent Government in Zimbabwe as a whole;
to preserve and foster the national unity and indivisibility of Zimbabwe as a sovereign State;
to provide recognition of the right of communities to manage their own affairs and further their own development;
to encourage the equitable sharing of local and national resources; and
to transfer local fiscal responsibilities and resources from the national Government to sub-national entities in order to establish a sound financial base for each provincial and metropolitan council and local authorities in rural areas.
However, the central Government machinery running the country will not be disbanded.
Instead, recipients of delegated political power, fiscal responsibilities and management of local resources will remain subordinate to the central Government. A policy framework will be evolved, which will enable Government to monitor effective and productive use of delegated powers. Quintessentially, compliance with appropriate legal frameworks will be stringently monitored and prompt action will be taken in case of any breaches.
Government political powers will only be devolved to eligible sub-national authorities to the extent defined by relevant laws and policies.
Therefore, there will be areas in sub-national jurisdictions which will remain a business for the central Government, such as defence, foreign affairs and national fiscal matters.
There will be areas in which the powers of regions and central Government will overlap.
Such areas include, inter alia, policing and specialised service delivery.
In implementing this endeavour, there will be stringent oversight in the exercise of devolved powers in order to curtail any breeding of corruption in those territories. To that end, financial conduct of sub-national structures will be guided by a sound public financial management system.
The proposed paradigm shift in the architecture of our national governance structures should result in increased and competitive exploitation of local resources, products and services.
Consequently, the country’s exports of high value products, goods and services will be contributed by all regions. A major service product, among other services, is tourism. In some areas earmarked to be export processing zones, significant value addition services such as banking, digital innovations, assembly operations, health and manufacture of pharmaceutical products, could make Vision 2030 a reality before that timeline.
Major success factors of implementing countrywide devolution of central Government authority will be the extent to which public services will be efficiently and timeously delivered in a cost effective manner.
The overall objective of policy will be to unlock the development potential of regions that will translate into attainment of higher investments, outputs, employment, value addition and equitable development. Regional social development and economic data will be regularly collected, in order to measure local Gross Domestic Product and disparities in the development of various sub-national territories.
Principles of provincial and
In pursuit of the above-stated objectives, the devolution agenda shall be supported by the general principles of provincial and local Government as enshrined in Chapters 14, 15 and 17 of the Constitution, outlined hereunder:
- a) that provincial councils, metropolitan councils and rural councils must, within their spheres, ensure good governance by being effective, transparent, accountable and institutionally coherent;
- b) that the sub-national Governments must assume only those functions conferred on them by the Constitution or an Act of Parliament, thereby ensuring that their conduct is legal at all times;
- c) that the sub-national tiers of Government must exercise their functions in a manner that does not encroach on the geographical, functional or institutional integrity of another tier of Government;
- d) that the sub-national tiers of Government must cooperate with another by (i) informing one another on matters of common interest, and (ii) harmonizing and coordinating their activities;
- e) that the lower tiers of Government must preserve the peace, national unity and indivisibility of Zimbabwe;
- f) that the provincial and local authorities must always work towards securing the public welfare; and
- g) that they should, at all times, ensure fair and equitable representation of people within their areas of jurisdiction.
Provincial tiers of Government
Zimbabwe’s Constitution recognises the existence of the following 10 provinces — Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland East, Mashonaland West, Manicaland, Masvingo, Midlands, Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South, Bulawayo and Harare. The first eight rural provinces shall be guided by provincial council while the last two — Bulawayo and Harare — shall be guided by the metropolitan councils.
In addition, local authorities shall be governed by their own councils. Chapter 15 of the Constitution also provides principles of guardianship of rural areas by chiefs. As the Constitution currently stands, a total of 10 directly elected officials — all Members of Parliament, the President of the Chiefs Council and his or her deputy, make up the Provincial Council in each particular province.
The metropolitan council, on the other hand, are constituted by all Members of Parliament, mayors, chairpersons, deputy mayors and deputy chairpersons in the metropolitan province.
Roles and responsibilities of metropolitan, provincial and local authority councils
The provincial and metropolitan councils shall carry out socio-economic development in their respective areas of jurisdiction, including:
- a) planning and implementing social, economic and developmental activities;
- b) planning and implementing measures for the conservation, improvement and management of natural resources;
- c) promoting tourism in their provinces and developing facilities for that purpose;
- d) monitoring and evaluating the use of resources in their province;
- e) coordinating and implementing governmental programmes in their provinces; and
- f) exercising any other functions, including legislative functions, that may be conferred or imposed by the Constitution or an Act of Parliament.
The devolution and decentralisation programme
A major aspect of the country’s economic development will be the devolution and decentralization of governance as well as economic power and functions of Government to provincial councils and local authorities. The devolved political power will be exercised by office holders who would have been elected in accordance of the law.
Ultimately, Zimbabwe’s three tier governance structures will become autonomous entities within parameters defined in law and by Government national policy proclamations, which are made from time to time.
The exercise of devolved State power will occur when central Government decentralises some of its functions to be sub-national Government structures. These sub-national governance structures are expected to achieve the following functions:
recognise and guarantee the existence of the sub-national local units, namely, provincial and metropolitan councils and local authorities for rural areas as devolved tiers of Government.
Provincial and metropolitan councils and local authorities are empowered to make policies, by-laws, rules and regulations and to adopt and implement laws and policies to facilitate effective planning of development programmes, good governance, revenue collection and expenditure at the local levels.
Provincial councils and local authorities are also expected to formulate regional investment and development plans derived from the National Investment and Development master-plan. Such plans should be a result of broad-based stakeholder consultations involving the local communities, traditional, political and civic leaders, local corporate sector, public enterprises and Government agencies operating in each province, right from the ward to the provincial level.
In developing their plans, the provincial structures will be assisted by personnel from ZIDA (Zimbabwe Investment Development Agency) and officials from OPC (Office of the President and Cabinet), in order to ensure coordination and synchronisation of regional plans with the national master-plan.
However, it should be emphasised that the autonomy of the developed sub-national governance structure should never be in competition or conflict with that of the national Government.
For the avoidance of doubt, the devolved units can only assume such powers and functions as are conferred upon them by the country’s Constitution or relevant Act of Parliament.
Metropolitan and provincial councils as well as local authorities must stimulate economic growth and employment creation through the establishment of value added industries, Small to Medium Enterprises, public-private partnerships and special economic zones, being guided by their respective factor endowments.
Furthermore, the appropriate supervisory instruments must be set up in order to ensure the effective functioning of a devolved system of governance, guarantee the indivisibility of Zimbabwe as a sovereign State as well as prevent corruption and other fraudulent activities that may set in at the lower tiers of Government.
A spatial decentralised budgetary system should be instituted to underpin the formulation of metropolitan, provincial and local authority investment and development plans and the allocation of revenues to the sub-national tiers of Government.
l Continued on www.sundaymail.co.zw