Several bills to implement devolution are yet to be debated in Parliament but analysts worry that authorities have taken too long.
The devolution bills anticipated in Parliament include the Provincial Councils and Administration Amendment Bill, Urban Councils Amendment Bill, Rural District Councils Amendment Bill, Regional Town and Country Planning Amendment Bill and the Traditional Leaders Amendment Bill.
Delivering his State of the Nation Address and the Opening of the Fourth Session of the Ninth Parliament of Zimbabwe, last week Thursday, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said Parliament will soon be requested to consider legislation relating to the implementation of the Devolution Agenda.
“Of special note is the presentation of the Provincial Councils Amendment Bill. The requisite legislation used by the lower tiers of the State to ensure efficient implementation of the devolution agenda will also be amended. These include the Urban Councils Amendment Bill; Rural District Councils Amendment Bill; Regional Town and Country Planning Amendment; and the Traditional Leaders Amendment Bill,” Mnangagwa said.
These Bills were also on the Third Session legislative agenda and to further guarantee the efficient discharge of the various mandates of the local authorities, the president said, “Parliament is also expected to consider the Municipal Courts and Police Bill as well as the Liquor Licensing Bill.”
But analysts note that the process to implement devolution has taken too long while these proposed pieces of legislation are flawed and require fundamental changes.
For instance, analysts argued that the Provincial Councils and Administration Amendment Bill, gazetted by the government on March 31, 2021 attempts to institute a provincial governance system under an Act underpinned by centralised government objectives.
“Eight years after the constitution came into effect, devolution is still a dream because the Provincial Council Amendment Bill is yet to be considered. This basically means dealing with devolution is not an issue or one that will take place in the near future,” said a legal practitioner, Dr Vusumuzi Sibanda.
“Devolution is something that keeps being spoken of but it’s very clear there is a lackadaisical approach to implement it. It can’t take a decade to implement something as simple as devolution of power.”
Dr Sibanda noted lack of implementation was ‘obviously’ informed by the government’s unwillingness to have various provinces, metropolitans and councils running their own affairs.
“I don’t see how this amendment bill, which is yet to be tabled, will sail without much difficulty because it looks like it is only yet to come to Parliament now. It might take five or six years whilst it’s sent from one house to the other. At the end of the day what the president said is almost nothing,” he claimed.
“Frankly speaking we are as good as talking in our backyards about devolution and it’s not an issue discussed at legislative level. There is virtually nothing that’s promising.”
The legal expert stated the unwillingness to implement devolution was linked to keeping resources tied to the central government.
“Central government wants to control all resources and make sure the various provinces are not independent to develop their own municipalities because if that happens, it’s going to take power from the central government and particularly Zanu-PF which keeps telling people it is the one doing things,” Dr Sibanda said.
“In that regard all those municipalities that are run by opposition will be able to utilise resources as they wish effectively and will be clearly seen not as puppets but as serious political players.”
ZAPU Southern Region Communications Director, Patrick Ndlovu concurred that authorities were unwilling to take devolution seriously.
“Anything to do with the implementation of devolution is long overdue. We hope that the president was not paying lip service or campaigning. We want complete devolution implemented immediately and the centralised system of government dismantled immediately,” he said.
Ndlovu highlighted ZAPU was displeased at the slow rate authorities were moving to fully empower locals to have power.
“As a party and region we are not happy with the snail’s pace in the implementation of Devolution which the people of this country demanded almost a decade ago. We are currently witnessing unbridled looting of natural resources, as government officials award themselves land and concessions before the provinces are given the power to self determine under Devolution. It will be an uphill task to redress current looting,” he noted.
Critical studies analyst, Khanyile Mlotshwa, indicated the challenge with the devolution agenda was authorities were vague on how they would implement it in a manner that locals understood and appreciated.
“It is long overdue considering that people voted overwhelmingly for devolution in 2013. The centralisation of power has stifled development in all provinces, including Harare. Parliament must move with speed on this,” he said.