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» » Devolution must be implemented as matter of urgency

The country’s Constitution which came into effect in 2013 after replacing the overused Lancaster House Constitution of 1979, provides for devolution of State power to the provinces as a way of empowering local communities to have greater say in the development of their own communities. This provision is enshrined in Section 264 of the Constitution, which makes it clear that the objectives of devolution are ‘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 affecting them’, and to ‘to recognise the right of communities to manage their own affairs and to further their development’, among others. If anything, this is a clear acknowledgement that resources of the country are not being shared equitably among communities. We therefore are taken aback that President Emmerson Mnangagwa has chosen to continue on his predecessor Robert Mugabe’s intransigent path of boldly ignoring devolution, against letter and spirit of the Constitution. After controversially winning the 2013 elections, Mugabe simply chose to ignore the devolution clause and appointed provincial affairs ministers instead of constituting the provincial councils as required by the Constitution. That Zanu PF opposed devolution since the time of the Constitution-making process is not a secret, but it must be noted that Mnangagwa, just as his opposition rivals in the July 2018 elections, based his campaign on many things including a pledge to implement devolution. It is therefore surprising that he has chosen to do a Mugabe and appoint provincial affairs ministers instead of directing his party, which has a two thirds majority in Parliament, to draft and pass a law that operationalises provincial and metropolitan councils as required by the Constitution. While the President and his officials are still saying the right things about devolution, they are doing the exact opposite on the ground. As it stands, provincial affairs ministers are unconstitutional appointments. The flow of the country’s resources as well as decision-making processes remain skewed in favour of Harare and that is detrimental to national cohesion. People must have freedom to determine the use of their resources and to decide on their development priorities. That can only be achieved if devolution is implemented as a matter of urgency.

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