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The provincial and metropolitan councils bill

03 Dec 2018 at 16:45hrs | Views
Devolution of power has been the flagship policy of ZAPU for a long time. ZAPU recognises and acknowledges the vast contribution of all who came on board the principle of devolved governance. The results of the Constitutional Parliamentary Committee (COPAC) public consultation confirmed the popularity of devolution. The inclusion of Devolution in the 2013 Constitution Chapter 14 ignited in many people the hope of transferring power from the centralised and corrupt system of government to the people to manage their own affairs in their localities. Following five years of ZANU government's dithering and even threats to scrap the devolution provision by amending the constitution, Mr E.D. Mnangagwa took advantage of devolution sentiments in his 2018 election campaign trail with a promise to enact legislation to establish and operationalise Constitutional provisions if he won the elections. Now his government is quickly moving to fulfill their promise by introducing the Devolution Bill in Parliament.

There has been mixed reactions to the Bill and confusion about the final shape of the proposed devolution. The public seems to be taken in by the rhetoric of "Power to the People" and the dream of having communities take control over their local affairs and resources. There is no doubt that the Bill will sail through Parliament without much scrutiny as the parties in Parliament were the crafters of the constitutional provision that is being aligned. There is no strong public agitation for democratic public consultation on the devolution process, albeit a few civil society groups have made submissions calling for public consultation. We can only hope that somebody is listening.

ZAPU is concerned that the government intention is to keep power rooted within the central government while giving only the impression of empowering people to manage and benefit from economic development in their provinces. Vice President Constantino Chiwenga told ZANU supporters in Kuwadzana, Harare during the election campaign that provinces will be competing with each other to contribute to the Central Government GDP while developing their provinces. There is no doubt that the government will manage the competition and assign development plans to each province.

We are told that the Devolution Bill seeks to facilitate the devolution of government powers and responsibilities to the Provincial and Local Authorities. It also seeks to facilitate and enhance coordination between Central Government, Provincial Councils and Local Authorities, within the context of decentralization and devolution programme. The "context of decentralization and devolution programme" needs unpacking to get clarity between decentralization and devolution and how the programme will be implemented.

The former finance Minister, Patrick Chinamasa warned that funding of devolution as set out in Chapter 14 of the Constitution would be unsustainable. Mr. Chinamasa had a point because as long as we maintain the current bloated governmental structures that gobble up the fiscus it would be impossible to finance the bloated National Assembly, central government ministerial structure and the required provincial structures to achieve meaningful devolution. The government is keen to amend the constitution to avoid a situation in which the MPs who also sit in the Provincial Councils as provided for in Section 268 of Chapter 14 would have a conflict of interest. This will not solve the challenge of sustaining unnecessarily bloated structures

 Under the ZAPU model of governance, the governmental structures would be streamlined to reduce public expenditure. The country cannot afford to maintain the current bloated system which is destroying the future of our children and grandchildren. ZAPU proposes the abolition of the Senate and reduction of the number of the National Assembly members by approximately one third. This would require the amendment of the Constitution, following due consultation with the citizens. There would be a delimitation of constituencies to reduce the number of MPs.

The provincial councils would have their own assemblies whose members are elected by the people in the province while the government plans are to have Ministers of State who would be responsible for ensuring that the growth of the provincial economies are in line with the national economic plan. This means the central government will appoint ministers to supervise the provincial economic development and growth of local GDPs and monitor compliance with National Government requirements. There appears to be a thin line between a local government administrator and the role of minister of state in adevolved governance. According to the government plans the minister's role will shift from political to economic activities of the province, particularly on how to grow the economy of the province.

The ZAPU model of devolution is based on political accountability to provincial residents and economic viability of the resource endowment of a geographical area. Five provinces would be both politically and economically viable (Manicaland, Mashonaland, Matebeleland, Masvingo and Midlands) than the current ten small provincial and metropolitan councils. Such configuration of the provinces would ensure that each province has enough resources to be exploited to sustain its infrastructure, further development and service delivery to its population as well as to bring in foreign currency through export, tourism attractions which are in each of the five provinces and other activities. The local elected members will be drivers of the development programs rather than a government minister. Natural resources would be processed locally to provide employment for locals. Taxes would be collected to finance service delivery within the provincial jurisdiction and a specific agreed proportion of revenue would go to support central government functions and shared national requirements. This way the grotesque public spending by central government that we have become accustomed to will be curtailed.

Iphithule T. Maphosa
ZAPU Information and Publicity Secretary

Source - Iphithule T. Maphosa ZAPU Information and Publicity Secretary
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