THE distribution of resources to fight the COVID-19 outbreak has exposed the need for government to fully implement devolution of power to allow provinces to map their own action plans to handle such disasters, a Gwanda-based civic group has said.
BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
The Community Youth Development Trust (CYDT) made the call after noting that government appeared more preoccupied with fighting coronavirus in Harare, ignoring other provinces.
The country today enters day one of the 21-day national lockdown to combat the spread of the disease, which has killed over 30 000 people worldwide while over 665 000 infections have been confirmed in at least 170 countries. To date, Zimbabwe has recorded seven confirmed cases and one fatality.
CYDT argued centralisation of the governance system had left outlying communities on their own with no provincial action plans or budgetary support to fight the disease.
“The government should consider devolving power in such trying times as a measure of combating COVID-19 through strengthening local institutions to make decisions that will assist them to collectively fundraise and ensure that local communities are well informed on this pandemic,” CYDT co-ordinator Sichasisile Ndlovu said.
“There is also need for contingency or disaster attached funds entrusted to the provincial council so that they can facilitate swift response during such times.
“Rural communities lack trust in their health institutions because they have been rendered fragile due to a number of factors including their weak capacity to respond to such pandemics owing to underfunding, poor infrastructure and shortage of skilled personnel.”
Devolution is provided for under Chapter 12 of the 2013 Constitution, with section 268 of the charter providing for the establishment of provincial councillors in the country’s provinces.
However, to date, there is no enabling Act to operationalise devolution despite government approving principles of the Provincial Councils and Administration (Amendment) Bill.
Gwanda Residents Association spokesperson Bekezela Maduma Fuzwayo added: “If our government had fully implemented the devolution of power, our provincial council would have come up with a purely Matabeleland South plan to handle this issue and set up our own facilities, certainly with the help of all our mines and other corporates in the province.”
Meanwhile, Lupane residents have expressed concern over water shortages facing the Matabeleland North provincial capital, saying this presented a fertile breeding ground for coronavirus.
Lupane Residents and Ratepayers Association (Lurra) secretary for administration Thulani Moyo said residents were forced to endure a fortnight long water crisis.
“Lurra observes with concern and sadness that while provision of water for washing hands is critical, residents have resorted to using boreholes. At these boreholes, hordes of women, men and children queue for long hours of up to 10pm daily to get the precious liquid,” Moyo said.
“This is a potential breeding environment for the rapid spread of COVID-19. Strangely, there has been little or no communication on why water supplies have been erratic: In a town where a huge dam with immeasurable water supply in the form of Lupane Dam, it certainly is a huge disappointment to be subjected to an unpredictable water supply.”
Lurra said failure by authorities to ensure a steady supply of water was a violation of sections 44 and 77 of the Constitution guaranteeing the right to safe and clean water.