Resolving the devolution issue

As the nation patiently awaits the second draft of the people-driven constitution, the Committee of Parliament responsible for the writing of the Constitution (Copac) is battling to resolve some of the “parked” issues, including the one on devolution. We need to state here and now that during the outreach meetings, there was a huge demand for the devolution of power and authority for the purpose of good governance.

This demand stemmed from what the nation had experienced in the 32 years since independence. Zimbabweans realized that over-centralisation of power and authority had, inter alia, resulted in unbalanced development and gross levels of inequality in the distribution of national resources.

It is generally thought that some provinces received the lion’s share of development resources at the expense of others. People saw devolution as a means to ensure equitable distribution of resources. It was further assumed that devolution would enable local residents to make more accurate decisions regarding development priorities for their own areas.

This will obviously depend on the model of devolution provided for in the forth-coming constitution.

Some view devolution as dangerous for Zimbabwe. They argue that it would dilute national unity, and that this country is too small to seriously implement a viable devolved government.There are 10 provinces.

It is probably best to quickly disregard both Harare and Bulawayo provinces, as we all know that theZanu (PF)regime created these two provinces in reaction to the loss of political support in these large urban areas.

Devolution would mean that all remaining eight provinces would need their own provincial legislature, cabinet, premier or governor – plus all the other structures normally associated with good governance. This would be a very expensive exercise, and some of the provincial governments would struggle to become effective, viable entities.

It may therefore be necessary to combine some provinces. There would also be a need to depart from the ethnic names– Manicaland, Matabeleland, Mashonaland – and adopt names that do not depict ethnic origins or allegiances. Some countries have resolved this problem by naming their provinces according to geographical features or directions on the compass.

For example, Masvingo and Matabeleland South could be combined to form the Southern Province. Matabeleland North and Midlands could combine to become Western Province. Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland West could form the Northern Province, and Manicaland and Mashonaland East could become the Eastern Province.

This would give four provinces large enough to be viable and effective. There could be other configurations and better names. The point is that it would be possible to devolve meaningful power, authority and resources to four provinces – but not to eight.

The issue of ministerial positions at provincial level would have to be discussed and agreed upon. It would make sense to me to appoint only deputy ministers at provincial level. They would have responsibility for only their specific provinces per portfolio.

They would have to report to the provincial head, whether he or she be premier or governor. They would also need to work closely with the national minister of their specific portfolio.

I know it sounds complicated – but I believe it can be done and can be effective. What do you think? [email protected]

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis

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