20 June 2019

Zimbabwe: Devolution Should Be Apolitical - Rural Women

Rural women in Mashonaland province have called upon the government to ensure that the devolution process is apolitical and inclusive of all vulnerable groups in communities.

The call was made during a meeting between rural women and parliamentarians from the province organised by the Institute for Young Women Development, held in Bindura recently.

This comes as the new administration of President Emmerson Mnangagwa has signalled that it will implement devolution during the 2018-2022 government term in order to decentralise power.

During the Mugabe era, political and economic power was centralised and this resulted in the running down of other provinces.

Devolution was therefore seen as a necessary vehicle for doing away with the over-centralised system of government, deepening democracy, promoting locally driven development, improving the delivery of public services, and promoting national integration and peace while recognising diversity.

The nature of the devolution to be implemented however remains unclear.

Rural women, on the other hand, said there should be apolitical discussions during the consultative process as this will scare away, mainly, opposition members.

"What is required in particular is for national officials (both political and administrative) to commit to a devolution process that respects the rules of the game. Importantly, if devolution is to succeed it should be a shared objective supported by both those with and without power as well as by the general citizenry," said a Guruve woman who attended the workshop.

Some called for the government to give as much information as possible about devolution as the process is not known to most rural dwellers.

"It's only a few people who are aware of what this is about. Some are in the dark so it should the duty of office bearer to come down to us and tell us what this animal is all about before any other engagements," said Margret Chimombe from Shamva.

For this to happen, the women said, headmen should be empowered with as much information as possible as they command a lot of authority in rural communities.

"If we could have a scenario where information goes to the headmen and he then passes that to his subjects, then we will have a better understanding of what should be done," said a villager from Chiweshe.

There have been fears that politicians will try to further their political agendas in the consultative meetings and thereby distorting the whole process.

However, Local Government is on record warning politicians that they should not use devolution for selfish gains.

"As a word of caution, devolution is not a vehicle to further regionalism, tribalism or awarding tenders to preferred people. We should all be united as people of one great nation," he said.

Member of Parliament for Women's Quota Bindura-Shamva constituency, Dorothy Mashonganyika called on the women to be wary of political vultures who will want to benefit from the process.

"We do not want political involvement but let us respect political structures as they also play a part in representing our views," she said.

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