Weighing in on Devolution

There has been debate in the current constitution making process on whether to adopt devolution of power as part of our governance system. It is alleged that some quotas in the Inclusive Government, for reasons known to themselves, have been misrepresenting the findings from the public consultative process. Newspaper reports in the past few months indicated that ZANU PF had the issue debated at one of its Politburo meetings and issued a statement that this system of government will not be a feature in the new constitution as it viewed it as divisive.

Devolution is a system of government where local communities are mandated to ensure that they raise resources from their communities to develop their areas and decisions are not necessarily imposed by central government. The running of local councils in Zimbabwe comes close to it except that the minister of local government, Ignatius Chombo has interfered in the running of councils by appointing one Commission after another for reasons that are largely political, but that is a piece for another day.

If the findings of the outreach exercise point to the fact that devolution was given thumbs up, the implications would be very serious. The people’s views are influenced by experiences of post -independent Zimbabwe where resource allocation has been questionable, favouring one clique or biased against a certain region. It might not be intentional, but the perception in politics is all that matters for shaping people’s views. It is believed that many state-of-the-art health facilities are found in Mashonaland West and that they have some of the best trained medical personnel including expatriate doctors. Then compared with areas such as Chipinge, the disparities are so glaring that they raise questions. How does one justify the setting up of a diamond polishing company in Mashonaland West Province, yet diamonds are mined in Marange which is in Manicaland? Or, perhaps the most controversial one, justifying the lack of seriousness on the part of central government to complete the Matebeleland Zambezi Water Project.

Diamond Mining at Marange

In such circumstances who would blame the people of Matebeleland for saying the region is marginalized and therefore there is need to devolve power so they can manage their own affairs. The problem with the caliber of politicians we have is that when the issue of devolution is raised, there is suspicion and perhaps a feeling of guilt that comes up. Whereas the inclusion of the voices of different ethnic or tribal groups should be celebrated as a resource in building democracy, in Zimbabwe, the mere mention of the different ethnicities is perceived as an attempt to divide the country. The Ndebeles, the Ndaus, the Karangas, the Kalangas, Tongas,  and others are resources for nation building and have a right to take part in determining the course of the country and adding their voices to that process.

It becomes a problem to think that the call for devolution of power is associated with attempts to divide the country, only because some people are guilty of such atrocious acts such as Gukurahundi committed in the 80s. The role of central government is to ensure that regions are allocated sufficient resources to equally develop and not to favour any specific regions because the people in higher offices are from certain ethnic groups. Diamonds in Marange surely should play a big part in developing Manicaland province, as much as granite extraction must benefit the people of Mashonaland East. Equally important, people of Matebeleland deserve a reliable supply of water. Let us celebrate the resources we have to develop our country including all Zimbabweans regardless of ethnicity and race.


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