Political and civic society leaders from the Matabeleland region, who for years have been advocating for government to adopt devolution as a governance system, yesterday accused President Robert Mugabe of seeking to subvert people’s views when he denounced the concept as divisive.
In one of his 88th birthday interviews serialised by the State media, Mugabe on Sunday declared he would not allow devolution to be included in the new national constitution, arguing it would divide the country.
“We don’t want to divide the country into small pieces because it will cause disunity among our people,” Mugabe said.
“Those things are done in big countries, not to a small country like ours.
“We once had this, under the Federation which included Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and Nyasaland (Malawi).
“Some are talking about separating the Matabeleland region to become a country — that is impossible, we don’t want that,” he added.
But MDC-T deputy national spokesperson Thabita Khumalo described Mugabe’s views as an affront to principles of democracy, adding devolution was
“Devolution of power is long overdue for provinces that have suffered marginalisation for too long,” she said.
“Why should people go to Harare to get permits for kombis? As a party, we are saying forward with devolution.”
MDC national spokesperson Nhlanhla Dube described Mugabe’s statements as calculated to force drafters of the new constitution to pander to his whims.
“The constitution of Zimbabwe is being written on the basis of what was said by the people in the Copac process, on the basis of the views of Zimbabweans collected by Copac during the outreach meetings,” Dube said.
“No individual has a right to determine what Zimbabweans want or shouldn’t want. The views of that individual shall remain the views of that individual.
“We, of course, urge all leaders to be circumspect about the views they make in public because they may be confused with the views of the people.
“Some of us will end up believing that those leaders might be bent on subverting the people’s views.”
Zapu spokesperson Methuseli Moyo said Mugabe had misunderstood the concept.
“It is clear that the President, like many
people in Zanu PF, doesn’t understand the
difference between devolution of power,
secession, federalism and decentralisation,” he said.
“They believe those who want devolution are trouble causers.
“Under devolution, we will still have one flag, one national anthem, one Parliament, one national team in all sports and one President.
“Perhaps he needs to hear that we will still have one Commander-in-Chief and Head of State.
“The difference is that provinces will have the power to deal with local issues.”
Effie Ncube, the coordinator of the Matabeleland Constitutional Reform Agenda (Macra), said they would campaign against a constitution that did not promote devolution.
“Our position as civic society is that we will not allow a constitution that short-changes us in terms of democracy,” Ncube said.
“To say the country is too small for democracy is nonsensical. Look at Switzerland, it is smaller than Matabeleland, but is divided into 20 counties.
“It appears he (Mugabe) doesn’t understand what he was fighting for.”