Zim govt insincerity on devolution appalling, says human rights body

By Upenyu Chaota

MASVINGO— Section 264 of the Zimbabwean constitution provides for devolution of power from the central government to provinces but the President Emmerson Mnangagwa led administration has not passed the law to operationalise the process yet the ministry of finance has already disbursed millions in devolution funds, a move which experts say shows the ‘new dispensation’s’ lack of sincerity to devolve power.

Speaking at the Provincial and Metropolitan Council Shadow Bill consultative meeting last week, Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum senior projects lawyer Wilbert Mandinde said the government should work on the devolution law first before they start disbursing funds.

“When we are looking at devolution in terms of Zimbabwe you take it from the context of the Constitution and our starting point is Section 264 which speaks of devolution of governmental powers and responsibilities.

“So it deals with both devolution of governmental powers as well as responsibilities initially of central government. The section is clear to say that power should be devolved from national to either provincial or metropolitan council as well as further down to the local authority, which is the whole idea,” said Mandinde.

Mandinde said the disbursement of devolution funds without the law means that the money may be used on other things opposite to the intended purpose.

“In terms of Section 265 (3), it requires an act of parliament to provide appropriate mechanisms and procedures to facilitate coordination from central government, provincial, metropolitan and local councils. So there is need for a law as a starting point but here we see that the government has already started giving people money for devolution. The law is supposed to spell out how the money is supposed to be used so by giving out money without the law I do not know what the government is trying to do.

“The law is not there at the moment. The aspirations of both the Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) and NGO Forum is then to say let us discuss a model law so that when money is disbursed people are able to handle the money as per the law.

“Devolution money should be used in a manner that benefits the community but the issue is on who determines what is good for the community. We have a situation here in Masvingo City where the council wants to use devolution money to drill boreholes to alleviate the water crisis but is that what the community agreed on because the city council is obliged to provide water even when the devolution money was not there. I see no link really to say that the money being given to the local authorities is for devolution when it is being used for service delivery,” said Mandinde.

He said the government should treat devolution different from decentralisation as the two are not the same.

“Devolution recognises the right of communities to manage their own affairs to further their development. It is important to note that devolution is not decentralisation. Decentralisation is a simple issue in which you simply say you can have something similar to national government within provincial or local structures.

“Devolution then goes to the power the people have within each and every area and are able to make decisions on their own based on the resources they have.

“I do not understand why the government is taking long to come up with the devolution law but the conclusion any one person can make is that the government is not being very sincere. The government realises the importance of the particular constitution provision.

“The government further realises that it is obliged to implement and I think is one of the things that they campaigned with saying they will devolve power,” said Mandinde.

Sources within Zanu PF said their party never wanted devolution as it would amount to loss of political capital.

“People should know that the constitution is a negotiated document between MDC and Zanu PF. This section on devolution is purely MDC and Zanu PF does not want to devolve power. Devolving power means losing it and we will not devolve ourselves out of power.

“At some point Mwonzora (Douglas) offered to come up with the devolution law but we shot it down,” said a Zanu PF source.

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