Devolution a long shot

Welshman Ncubee depBINGA — Last week, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) led by Welshman Ncube launched a manifesto anchored on three pillars of which devolution of power to provinces overarches them all.
Ncube chose to launch his party’s manifesto at Siachilaba Business Centre, deep inside Binga.
Binga District is arguably one of the most underdevelopment parts of the country.
By launching the MDC’s manifesto in Binga, the party said it wanted to make a political statement that they indeed stand for the marginalised.“Here in Binga, you have your own natural resources. You have your own river, Zambezi. You have your own fish. Despite the river flowing at your doorsteps you do not have permission to fish your God-given fish; you are not even allowed to draw water from the same river,” Ncube told his supporters.
He said the three pillars of the MDC manifesto dubbed “devolution is our new revolution” were governance politics, economic pillar and the social agenda.
Under the social agenda pillar, he said his government would ensure education is accessible to Zimbabweans if elected into power by ensuring that every community has both a primary and secondary school.
Ncube said the MDC would also restore the country’s health sector, adding that the elderly and disabled would be entitled to monthly allowances.
He said the first thing an MDC government would do was to abolish the central system of government, which he said has cost Zimbabwe much-needed development since independence and replace it with the devolved system of government.
The role of the central government would be to ensure national resources and the national budgets are distributed equitably to all provinces across the country.
But political observers say while devolution of power to the provinces seeks to address underdevelopment in some parts of the country, it would not be easy for the party that wins the polls to immediately implement it during its five-year tenure in the next government.
The country recently adopted a Constitution that provides for devolution of power to provinces. The new charter has been used by the MDC formations as a campaign tool especially in Matabeleland.
The concept has not yielded much fruit in neighbouring South Africa while Kenya which recently adopted it is currently struggling to implement it as well.
“The central government will remain of course while the centralised system will change but it will not be easy to immediately do away with the system, because there are no laws in place to operationalise it (devolution) right now,” said Michael Mdladla-Ndiweni, a political analyst.
Ndladla said the next Parliament would have a lot of work to do in coming up with new laws to operationalise devolution.
“I am not even certain if Professor Ncube will get the outright majority to effect those changes immediately,” he added.
Ndiweni said unless there was political will to implement devolution, the concept could die a premature death immediately after the elections.
“Anyone outside Harare and more so in Matabeleland would want a devolved system of governance; this is very appealing to the Matabeleland electorate,” said political analyst, Thomas Sithole.
Sithole, however, concurred that its implementation after polls would be problematic.
He explained: “It will be a challenge to implement devolution no matter which party wins. (Prime Minister Morgan) Tsvangirai has shown tendencies of centralising and concentrating power to himself hence he might enjoy that kind of system where power is highly concentrated at the centre. He might not be too keen to give away what might be deemed benefits of a centralised governance system. Devolution will thus weaken his power in this regard.”
He added that President Robert Mugabe who has enjoyed centralised powers for over 33 years was also unlikely to sacrifice them for a devolved state.
Dumisani Mpofu, another political analyst, said the concept of devolution carried some message of hope to Zimbabwe notwithstanding that its implementation would not be easy.
“This will ensure all provinces are developed equitably. Taking for example people in Matabeleland South will blame Gwanda (provincial capital) and not Harare for their failures.” He said.
Another political commentator, Godwin Phiri, said although it would be difficult for the next government to implement devolution in the next five years significant progress towards that goal could be made if there is political will to do so.

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