25 April 2019

Southern Africa: SADC Councils Hail Zim Devolution

Zimbabwe has been hailed for devolution of governance at a time when African governments have been urged to give autonomy and resources to local authorities and remunerate councillors who play a pivotal role in the development of communities.

In an interview on the sidelines of a meeting of Sadc local authorities recently, United Cities and Local Governments Association -- Southern Africa Regional Organisation, vice president Rev Mpho Moruakgomo said local authorities are the government that is closest to the people.

He hailed the Zimbabwe's Constitution for providing for devolution, saying in most parts of Africa government functions at the behest of the Local Government Minister.

"Local authorities in the region are not adequately resourced and sometimes central governments do not realise and understand the strategic importance of local governments and do not give them the necessary space and support to execute their work," he said.

"Some of the local governments are not creatures of the national constitution. They function at the behest of Minister of Local Government. I am glad the new Zimbabwe Constitution enshrines local government. Local government can be able to function as a competent authority if they have a degree of autonomy and also assurance of ability to discharge their mandate."

He said besides adequately resourcing the capacity of local governments the conditions of work themselves for officials as well as councillors were not quite conducive.

He said local government in Africa is developmental in nature, therefore it is very demanding.

"It is not a part time job and the way we compensate councillors in Africa is as if we are in developed world where local government is not developmental. Ours is 24 hours, seven days a week.

Rev Mpho Moruakgomo, who is the president of Botswana Association of Local Authorities said central governments do not necessarily come into contact on daily basis with the local communities but through the local government.

"We will continue to advocate for central governments to capacitate and assist local governments to execute their mandates and that they be resourced adequately to do so. If anything happens in the community. We will be running around for ambulance, rushing to the maternity ward, undertaking, counselling people in the community and even contributing in burials."

"You need to have councillors who are involved together with the staff all the time so compensate them properly. We don't have robust decentralization processes in the region. To get finance from the national fiscus is already a problem."

He said there was need for a clear revenue sharing mechanism from central government to local authorities saying a strong local government will stop dependency.

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