Zimbabwe: Parliament Stalls Devolution Agenda

11 January 2021

Senior Reporter

The delay by Senate in passing the Constitutional Amendment Bill (Number 2) that would have given credence to the establishment of provincial councils has stalled Government efforts to speedily implement its devolution agenda in full.

Implementation of the devolution agenda is part of Government's economic blueprint, the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1), a successor to the Transnational Stabilisation Programme.

The Constitutional Amendment Bill (Number 2) seeks to properly constitute Provincial Councils by removing voting powers initially conferred to Senators and Members of the National Assembly so that they become mere ex-officio members.

The Bill also seeks to remove a clause that makes mayors for Harare and Bulawayo Metropolitan provinces, chairs of the Provincial Councils and replace it with a clause providing that a party with the majority will be empowered to chair the Provincial Councils of Harare and Bulawayo Metropolitan provinces.

Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi admitted that the delay in the passage of the Bill has had an adverse effect on Government's devolution agenda.

Minister Ziyambi, who is also Leader of Government Business in the House of Assembly said he would prioritise conclusion of the Bill once Parliament resumed sitting.

He however noted that Parliament's sitting would be subject to the Government rules and measures to contain Covid-19 which has seen the country reverting to Level Four of the national lockdown after a surge in infections.

The Bill is currently before Senate after it sailed through the National Assembly.

"We will have to deal with the Constitutional Amendment Bill first once we resume sitting so as to give legal effect to the devolution agenda.

"At the moment, we cannot amend the Urban Councils Act and Rural District Councils Act without cleaning up the Constitution. We have to amend Sections 268 and 269 of the current Constitution by removing Senators and National Assembly members as members of Provincial Councils since it was agreed that they can not play an oversight role over themselves," said Minister Ziyambi.

"They can be ex-officio members who can sit and debate but not vote in Provincial Councils. They cannot have conflicting roles where they play a role as members of the Executive during Provincial Council meetings and go on to play an oversight role as legislators. So we have to clean up these inconsistencies by passing the Constitutional Amendment Bill No.2."

Minister Ziyambi said they could not comply with Section 273 of the Constitution without passing the Constitutional Amendment Bill No.2.

Section 273 of the current Constitution provides that: "An Act of Parliament must make provision, consistent with this Chapter, for the establishment and functions of provincial and metropolitan councils... "

"We cannot therefore push for an Act of Parliament as provided by Section 273 of the Constitution without first cleaning up the Constitution as what the Bill before Parliament seeks to do. This has admittedly stalled the devolution agenda being spearheaded by the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works," said Minister Ziyambi.

The Constitution Amendment No.2 Bill also seeks to extend the women's quota by another two terms after it was felt that the initial two terms had not achieved desired objectives.

Government has through Treasury, been disbursing funds to local authorities to allow communities to determine areas of development as envisaged by the devolution agenda which is also contained in NDS1.

Spearheading the devolution agenda is also meant to attain President Mnangagwa's enunciated Vision 2030 which aims to create an upper middle income economy by the end of this decade.

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