Why Devolution of Power Is Non Negotiable


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By Dumisani O. Nkomo

The argument that was and is still propounded by some sections of the Zimbabweans society is both frivolous and vexatious for a number of reasons which I will discuss in this instalment. Let me however explode and dispel the myths that are used to dismiss devolution of power which is enshrined in chapter 14 of the Zimbabwean constitution and which the government has still failed to implement five years after it was included in the country’s supreme governance charter. It must also be remembered that failure to implement devolution of power was one of the reasons that was cited for the attempted impeachment of Robert Mugabe which was then overtaken by his subsequent resignation.

Devolution of Power is Non Economical

The Minister of Finance, Patrick Chimamasa infamously declared that devolution of power was costly and government could not afford to implement it. I would like to argue that failure to implement devolution of power will be more costly than implementing it for the following reasons:

  1. Devolution of power is not necessarily creating new structures, new employees and so forth but rather ensuring that structures at local and provincial level have the power to implement decisions at their level for the benefit of local communities. Although section 270 of the constitution envisages Provincial and metropolitan councils creation of structures and staff, this is not the main thrust of devolution of power to provincial and local level tiers of governance.

Devolution of power will necessarily make governance easier as it enables citizens to have access to government which in itself contributes to the type of governance envisaged in section 194 of the constitution which envisages public administration which amongst other things is responsive to people’s needs, transparent and encourages people to participate in policy making. For this to happen and to happen more effectively it is important to have public administration and governance that is localized with sufficient power to make decisions that can make a difference in the lives of people in that particular locality, community ,district or province. Devolution of power is a methodology of governance that facilitates this effectively.

2.Ownership of local resources

Devolution of power allows communities to manage their own affairs and to benefit from their own resources. The objects of devolution of power in the constitution adequately capture this in section 264 paragraph which states “to recognize the right of local communities to manage their own affairs and to further their own development”.

In actual fact development processes in Zimbabwe are premised on the imperative of bottom up development epitomized by the role of Village Development Committees (VIDCO), Ward Development Committees (WADCO) created under the Traditional Leaders Act and the Rural District Councils Act. VIDCOS and WADCOs are supposed to formulate annual development plans which then proceed upwards to the District Development Committees and then the Rural District Development Committees. There is then a development process disconnect because there is no link between local, district level and provincial development processes since the old Provincial Development Committee structures do not have adequate decision making powers to ensure that plans developed at micro level are actualized through budget processes. From a development planning perspective, devolution of power becomes essential as it enables aspirations of citizens expressed through their micro level plans are manifested. Tragically VIDCOS and WADCOs have become commissariat structures of the ruling party and needless to say the whole imperative of bottom up planning has been lost in the jungle of political expedience .

Devolution of power to local/municipal and provincial structures is thus key in national development as developmental planning assumes a bottom–up paradigm.

Management of Local Resources

When locals are fully in charge of their own resources and are able to make decisions on resource governance communities are thus fully developed. The people in Gwanda should be able to benefit from the Macimbis that they have in the same manner people in Matobo should benefit from the flora and fauna at the Matopo National park. Timber proceeds should benefit people in Lupane in the same manner that people in Mount Darwin should benefit from black granite and so forth.

If any district or place is disadvantaged by lack of resources mechanisms to equalize development can be put in place as is the case in Canada.

I would like to posit therefore that if Zimbabwe is a democratic developmental state devolution of power is best positioned to facilitate this for the following reasons :

1.It brings governance processes closer to the people

2.It increases accountability and access to decision making and policy processes.

3.Makes revenue collection more efficient – if proceeds from Beitbridge Border Post benefits Beitbridge and the town gets at least sixty percent proceeds or 80% proceeds from there this means there is more efficacy and efficiency in both collection and use of revenue proceeds.

4.It is essential in development planning.

5.Creates a greater sense of ownership of the national cake as communities have access to their own local slice and hence access to the bigger cake unlike a highly centralized system were people do not even know that there is a cake in the first place .

Devolution of power must be implemented now! Parties that reject devolution of power must be rejected in the elections because devolution gives power to the people.


Dumisani Nkomo is the Chief Executive Officer of Habakkuk Trust. He writes here is his personal capacity