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    Saturday, 19 January 2019

    Spirit of devolution lost in implementation


    Legal Affairs Perm Sec Virginia Mabhiza.
     

    Information Perm Sec Nick Mangwana.


    MATTHEW TAKAONA


    In this instance, I propose that Government sets up a Zimbabwe Devolution Centre that does not only
    co-ordinate this crucial project but disseminates as much information as possible to the public. The centre must also ensure public participation in the implementation of devolution. The bottom line of devolution is participation.


    MATTHEW TAKAONA

    The main spirit of devolution of Government powers as espoused in Section 264 (2) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe is to enhance people’s participation in the exercise of the powers of the State in making decisions that affect them.
    Devolution of Government powers to metropolitan and provincial councils started in earnest this year with a budgetary allocation of $310 million for the purpose. Activities on devolution including setting up of an inter-ministerial committee, drafting of bills and working on proposed amendments to the Constitution have been embarked upon.
    These are processes with far reaching socio-political and economic impact on the people. If one looks at the new constitution, there is no phenomenon in that supreme document that has more dramatic and drastic impact on the way people will approach their governance, their politics and economics like devolution.
    Devolution is fundamental.
    However, its spirit and requirement for people to participate in the affairs that affect them is not being recognised and fulfilled in the implementation process. There is little openness, information is not readily available hence there is totally no public participation in the process of the introduction of the new three tier system of governance which comprises local councils, provincial and metropolitan councils and the central government.
    If anyone tries to get information on devolution currently; one is likely to be referred from one ministry to another particularly the ministries of Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, the Ministry of Information, Publicity and  Broadcasting services and the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing and there is no point person in those ministries.
    And even if one gets to someone in those ministries, the level of ignorance on what is precisely going on can be astounding. No one is too sure of the time frames of devolution, who is responsible for what and the content of the processes.
    If the level of ignorance is this high among Government officers then it can only be worse in the public sphere. A snap survey will show that professionals including teachers, journalists and even lawyers have little information on devolution. Some lawyers don’t even know what this decentralisation process is all about and yet the phenomenon’s central theme is about bringing everyone to participate in the affairs of the State.
    This is obviously a bad start for the project and it is my submission that the best time for citizens to get involved in the decentralisation process is at the beginning and this obviously now. People must get a sense of ownership of the devolution project and that can only happen if Government involves them from start to end. People must also be involved in order to ensure that the flame of participation of citizens in State affairs is kindled.
    Without a sense of ownership by the people, decentralisation is going to be like many other Government projects; it will fail to deliver the desired results and even if it doesn’t fail, it may take many, many years to take off the ground.
    Devolution has so far been reported in the media in passing. The project is not yet with the people.
    Although devolution requires that the people and Government move together, Government is now far off into the project.
    The devolution template has for example already been sealed by Government with models from  China being used. The specialised activities of each province also appear to be sealed with the Metropolitan Province of Harare destined to become the country’s ICT nerve centre; Bulawayo Metropolitan the industrial hub; Manicaland is the diamonds beneficiation hub and Midlands the iron and steel value chain centre.
    These specialised activities have been sealed by technocrats without an ounce of contribution from the people. This is a missed opportunity not only to allow people to participate in affairs that affect them but hear their views.
    There is possibility that had people been involved, they may not only have suggested different specialisation areas for their provinces but may be holding dear their own preferred economic activities. The danger as noted by those who crafted the Constitution is that technocrats continue to think that they should think, plan and allocate programmes on people.
    Apart from allotting specialisation areas to provinces, many devolution activities are up and running without people’s involvement. For example the Ministerial committee is just about to sit and draft amendments to the Constitution and this is happening without a single public awareness campaign on the process.
    Last week the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Virginia Mabhiza confirmed that the drafting of the layman bill on the Metropolitan and Provincial Councils is complete. There has not been a single public statement and awareness campaign on the B ill.
    It is my view that although the new dispensation of President Mnangagwa has done a lot to create more openness, the Ministry of Information still needs to do much more to ensure that people gets as much information as possible on issues that are of public interest. The devolution programme that we are embarking on as a nation requires a multi-million dollar campaign if the baby to be delivered is to be healthy and bouncy.
    The constitution has a thread on openness running through it and this means that a lot more new Government entities must be established to deal with dissemination of information to the public.
    In this instance, I propose that Government sets up a Zimbabwe Devolution Centre that does not only co-ordinate this crucial project but disseminates as much information as possible to the public. The centre must also ensure public participation in the implementation of devolution. The bottom line of devolution is participation.
    In addition the Zimbabwe Devolution Centre must devolve itself and set up satellite devolution centres in all the 10 political provinces. These centres must be one stop shops where the public gets everything they need on devolution.
     


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