NGOs threaten ‘No’ vote


Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are threatening to campaign for a “No” vote against the draft constitution if the new governance charter does not include devolution.

Bulawayo regional chairman of the National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (Nango) Godwin Phiri told journalists over the weekend about 1 200 of their members countrywide had adopted devolution as the most preferred system of governance.

“It would be extremely dangerous to allow the constitution-making process, which is at the drafting stage, to respond to the views of individuals at the expense of national opinion as expressed in the Copac outreach process,” said Phiri.

This follows recent remarks by President Robert Mugabe that devolution would not be part of the country’s new constitution.

Mugabe told the State media on the eve of his 88th birthday that devolution would not be included in the new constitution, arguing the concept was divisive.

Addressing a Chiefs’ Council conference last Wednesday, Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo reiterated Mugabe’s call, saying devolution encourages “ethnic strife”.

But Phiri said: “We must understand that the concept of devolution is not a Matabeleland issue, but a national issue. Those who truly want devolution of power should wait for the draft and ensure that we continue to lobby so that in the later stages of the process, devolution is included in the constitution. If that fails, there must be preparedness to vote ‘No’. If devolution of power is not there we must be prepared to vote ‘No’.”

Phiri said NGOs’ insistence on devolution of power was based on what the people said during the outreach programme.

“So, just give the people what they want,” he said.
Nango western region secretary Anglistone Sibanda said it was Nango’s wish that the referendum be done section by section and not through a blanket “Yes” or “No” vote.

“The ‘No’ vote campaign, if we come to it, will depend on the mechanisms around voting: Will it be a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ vote or section-by-section vote?” said Sibanda.

“If Copac says it’s a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ vote, then unfortunately, without devolution, it’s a ‘No’ vote for us. But if they put it to a section-by-section plebiscite, it will be something else.”

Several civic society organisations and politicians from Matabeleland region have been campaigning for devolution as opposed to a centralised governance system, arguing the former allowed for local communities to administer their own resources.

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