MUTARE- A leading human rights defender has blasted the vague constitutional provisions on devolution which replicate rural and urban council duties without guaranteeing corresponding executive powers.
By Donald Nyarota
Advocate Passmore Nyakureba made these remarks at a business and civic society forum organized by Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) to discuss positive and negative impacts of devolution.
Nyakureba said devolution which does not guarantee fiscal and economic powers for provincial councils to allocate funds for local development will perpetuate current distribution of resources largely controlled at central level.
He said the lack of political will to implement devolution stems from a constitutional making process which produced a hybrid of divergent political interests.
“The kind of devolution that we have does not really make logical sense because there is no sense in saying we have a provincial council that sits to decide development but cannot vote or cannot have a budgetary vote. They are just supposed to sit and discuss ways to come up with developmental projects, without powers to allocate funds, it’s just like a talk in the park.
“The new constitution says that there is going to be a Provincial Council but under the Lancaster House we had local authorities and the work of provincial council will not differ from what the urban and rural district councils.
“So essentially, in my view, the kind of devolution that we have as proposed in our constitution does not make sense and explains why politicians have not implemented it.
“Its composition is just a list of elected politicians the same people that are in central government will also be in the provincial councils,” said Nyakureba.
“This was a by-product of a constitutional making process driven by two political parties which had distinct motivations, one wanted to retain its power while the other supported devolution in the belief that it could help them wrestle power.”
RAU director, Shastry Njeru bemoaned the deafening silence from civic society organizations whom he said should lobby government to expedite enactment of a legal framework to guide devolution.
He said delays in the operationalization of devolution was an imperative for civic society to lobby government to ensure that power is decentralized.
“It didn’t start yesterday devolution started in 2013 when the document or the text became our fundamental law, we have been quite for those years but the constitution came into life in 2013 and at this stage we should have been miles ahead in terms of devolution.
“The balance should be there between politics and economics and the people to ensure that the areas the centers that are beyond the centre are developed.
“As civic society, our appeal is that the implementation of the devolution process should benefit the people on the ground and ensure equity in resource sharing across the whole country,” said Njeru.
Former Mutare mayor Brian James said local businesses were anticipating reaping benefits from devolution through prioritization of local development.
James said under current conditions companies were folding due to viability challenges.
Confederations of Zimbabwe Industries Manicaland chapter executive, Richard Chiwandire called on local companies to embrace government policies which ring fence their operations.
“As industry, we must also be proactive in supporting and promoting industries which are export driven and the Ministry of Finance and other economic ministries are promoting import substitution and exports that is what is going to drive prosperity in our businesses.
“Let us position ourselves as Manicaland to leverage devolution and like policies which provide a buffer for local companies.
“We must be a people who produce our own goods and consume our own products, yes some imported items are necessary, but we now need to produce so that we can buy locally, for as long as we are a net importer our trade account is always going to be skewed and we will be living in dependency,” said Chiwandire.