Devolution: Government moves to amend Constitution

Justice, Legal and parliamentary Affairs Minister Mr Ziyambi Ziyambi

HARARE – The Ninth Parliament of Zimbabwe officially opens on Tuesday with significant changes to Chapter 14 of the Constitution set to be introduced.

The amendments are designed to streamline the structure of Provincial and Metropolitan Councils as part of the devolution plan being pursued by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Government.

Chapter 14 provides for National Assembly representatives to sit in both Parliament and the councils.

Parliament has oversight over the councils, which in essence means Chapter 14 of the Constitution as currently subsisting asks MPs to monitor themselves in this regard.

Authorities are also wary of creating new and bloated structure that could further strain an already overstretched fiscus.

Government plans to introduce wholesale changes to the national governance system by rolling out comprehensive decentralisation and devolution of power and authority to provinces.

Authorities are crafting the Provincial and Metropolitan Councils Bill, which will be tabled before the Ninth Parliament.

Primarily though, the Ninth Parliament will be seized with enacting legislation that drives Zimbabwe’s development aspirations, particularly attracting investment and improving the ease of doing business.

President Mnangagwa will officially open the First Session of the Ninth Parliament on Tuesday, and present his first State of the Nation Address before a joint sitting of the National Assembly and Senate.

He will outline the legislative agenda underpinning the Second Republic.

Justice, Legal and parliamentary Affairs Minister Mr Ziyambi Ziyambi told State media that an amendment to the Constitution was inevitable.

He said: “The way (Provincial and Metropolitan Councils) are structured at the moment, all the Honourable MPs within the province sit in the Provincial Councils with all the chiefs and Provincial Councilors.

“You sit there in Parliament, you allocate a budget to the Provincial Council, you go back to the province and sit in the Provincial Council and determine how the budget you allocated is used. Then you go back to Parliament and play an oversight role to things that you have been doing.

“So, perhaps it is one area that I believe the Minister of Local Government will be able to tackle and bring it to us so we look at how we can amend the Constitution and deal with that.

“It’s just not appropriate … These are some of the issues that need cleaning up, forget about the Provincial Ministers.”

He said a law was being crafted to facilitate operations of Ministers of State in the devolved governance system.

He said duties of Ministers of State would be directly linked to growing the provincial economy in line with the national development plan.

“In fact Provincial Ministers are actually going to enhance the devolution because they will be key critical players in ensuring that they help in the growth of the provincial GDPs,” said Minister Ziyambi.

“Their thrust now won’t be to do with political activities but to look into the economic activities of the province, particularly how to grow the economy of the province.

“We are going to come up with enabling legislation that will give effect to the Provincial Councils. This legislation will spell out the interaction and the work of Provincial Ministers of State will do to enhance the devolution agenda.

“Devolution is some form of decentralisation; we have decentralisation of governmental powers already. But we want to go a step further and have each province manage its own affairs and the Provincial Minister will work towards ensuring that the province grows its economy. So there will be no interference at all.”

Speaker of the National Assembly Advocate Jacob Mudenda said Chapter 14 could amended to ensure that government at provincial level is “lean”.

“We also need to have a microscopic analysis of Chapter 14 of our Constitution regarding devolution, which the President has been very clear about, whereby he wants all provinces to contribute effectively and in a pronounced manner to the gross domestic product by ensuring that each province exploits its resources whether underground or above the ground to ensure that the provincial economies are leveraged to enhance accelerated economic development,” said Adv Mudenda.

“Parliament, therefore, will ensure that Chapter 14 of the Constitution is cleaned up to the extent that the governance at that level is lean but effective and that the Ministers of State are grounded on a legal framework that will give them clear authority to link the economic activities of each province with those of the national economic policy framework.

“To that extent, Parliament must come up with a new Provincial and Metropolitan Councils Act that will streamline the devolution framework as matter of urgency.”

Section 264 of the Constitution provides for the devolution of government powers and responsibilities to, among other things, “recognise the right of communities to manage their own affairs and to further their development”.

Section 268 provides for the establishment of Provoincial Councils in the eight rural provinces, consisting of senators, two senator chiefs, National Assembly representatives (including the Women’s Quota), mayors and ten persons elected via proportional representation.

The President and Deputy President of the National Chief’s Council are members of the council in their home provinces.

For the Metropolitan Councils of Bulawayo and Harare, the membership will include the mayor (Chair) and MPs.

An Act of Parliament will establish and operationalise the councils.

Adv Mudenda also said the Ninth Parliament would legislatively compliment Government’s drive to accelerate economic development.

He said: “No development takes place without being buttressed by a robust legal framework; you need laws that create a conducive environment for accelerated economic development.”

He said Zimbabwe’s tax and visa regimes and immigration laws would be expeditiously reviewed, and establishment of a one-stop investment centre prioritised.