OPPOSITION National Constitutional Assembly party leader and University of Zimbabwe law lecturer Lovemore Madhuku has urged residents to reject Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo’s two proposed Local Authorities Bills, describing the laws as meant to counter devolution of power which is provided for in the new Constitution.
Addressing stakeholders during a public meeting organised by the Combined Harare Residents’ Association on Tuesday, Madhuku said the proposed Bills were part of Zanu PF’s grand plan to reverse provisions of Chapter 14 of the constitution by centralising local governance.
“Zanu PF is reneging from the Constitution that calls for devolution as the Bills give the minister so much power,” Madhuku said.
“The Bills show what Zanu PF has become used to and you can see that Chombo knows that he can rule even when President Mugabe is there. This is what happens when a minister overstays in one portfolio.”
He added that it was important for residents’ associations and the opposition to look at ways of coming up with their own Private Member’s Bill that entrenches devolution as opposed to Chombo’s Bills. The Local Authorities Bill seeks to amalgamate the Urban Councils Act and Rural District Councils Act into one law that oversees the administration of local government.
On the other hand, the Provincial Councils Bill will create the new provincial councils as stipulated in the new Constitution.
“The Bills are welcome, but I think it would be much better to have one Act that deals with both local authorities and provincial councils than the proposed two. This is the trend in other countries like South Africa,” Madhuku said.
The two Bills have more than 200 clauses that refer to the minister and these deal with setting up of commissions, alteration of ward and council boundaries, fixing salaries and benefits for mayors and dissolving elected councils. The Bills also give the minister power to approve all commercial activities that any local authority may wish to engage in.
Other opposition party representatives at the meeting also castigated the Bills saying they shortchanged the people.
The Local Government ministry has currently started public consultations on the Bills before they are tabled in Parliament for debate.