Devolution dispute spills into court

high courtFidelis Munyoro Chief Court Reporter
The Constitutional Court yesterday allowed the State to file opposing papers to the case of Lobengula legislator Samuel Sipepa-Nkomo, who is seeking an order forcing Government to comply with the Constitution on devolution.

Nkomo wants the Government to decentralise power from Harare to the provinces, to enable all citizens to set their own priorities.

The high-profile civil case had been set for hearing yesterday, but was deferred because the State had not filed its opposing affidavit.

The State sought the indulgence of the court to be allowed to file its papers out of time.

Nkomo’s lawyer Mr Tendai Biti did not oppose the condonation of the late filing of the State’s opposing affidavits.

“Respondents be and are hereby granted condonation to file the opposing affidavit,” said Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku, postponing the case to a later date.

The Chief Justice, however, directed the registrar of the court to set the matter for hearing at the earliest convenience time.

In his application, Nkomo wants the apex court to force Local Government, Public Works and Urban Development Minister Dr Ignatius Chombo; Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa and the Government, to put in place legal instruments necessary for the formation of such councils. He argued that Government’s non-compliance was preventing him from fully dispensing his duties as the representative for the Lobengula Constituency.

Devolution, he argued, was central in the part of the country he came from and in the constituency he represents.

“I was chosen to represent my constituency, which expects me to serve in the Bulawayo Metropolitan Council and represent its interests,” he argued in his papers filed at the Constitutional Court early last year.

“I want to serve in this important institution so that it can perform and execute its developmental roles as defined by the Constitution.

“This is where we are supposed to make decisions, together with Bulawayo councillors, about what is of importance to the city and how to take the city forward.”

He argued that Bulawayo council did not exist because the Government was delaying its formation as required by the new charter. Minister Chombo is responsible for the administration of the Provincial Councils and Administration Act, while Minister Mnangagwa handles legal matters for the Government including the Constitution.

The State is still to respond to the application.