Part Two: Towards a more democratic informal economy governance

File pic: Informal traders

The powers of the local authorities involve inter alia, the implementation of an operational master plan or local plan.

Drawing of master plans affects informal economy workers on all spheres and there is, therefore, need to ensure that there is adequate representation.

The master plans are critically important documents to be left to bureaucrats to deal with without oversight. Section 12 of the   Regional, Town and Country Planning Act (Chapter 29:12) deals with delegation of powers from the local authority.

Establishment of a committee should be a requirement as it ensures that there is proper representation of interested parties in the drawing of master plans.

It also promotes devolution.

The committee should also be given the power to adopt a master plan before it is transferred and approved by the local authority as it represents its views.

There is also need to set out a procedure for appointment to the committee.

It must not be left to the sole discretion of the local council.

There is also need to set out circumstances under which delegated power to the committee may be withdrawn such that the local authorities do not make arbitrary decisions.

The committee has to represent the people.

The preparation of master plans is mandated to local planning authorities as specified in last week’s instalment.

Before a master plan is prepared, local planning authorities are directed to undertake a study of the planning area.

It is through the conduct of the study that the first step of citizen consultation is expected to occur.

The Local Planning Authorities (LPA) are also directed to consult neighbouring local planning authorities, but not specific interest groups.

Section 15 dwells on publicity in connection with the master plan, directing that in formulating and determining the contents of the master plan, the local planning authority shall take steps as will in its opinion, ensure that there is adequate consultation in connection with the matters proposed to be included in the master plan.

This is certainly not participatory consultation in that (a) it is the Local Planning authority that determines the amount of consultation (b) the consultation proposed includes matters that are proposed in the master plan, therefore, interest groups that have matters not included in the master plan can be ignored during the consultation.

Such a situation is recommended for amendment.

The Act places emphasis on seeking the approval of the public of a draft plan and does not place sufficient emphasis on wide consultation before the draft plan is produced.

Instead of just inviting the public to make objections, there should be room for the public to work hand in glove with the LPA such that by the time of public exhibit of the plan, there would be not many objections as the plan would be a product of wider public consultation.

A good example of the suggestion above is section 4 of the City of Cape Town By-Laws in South Africa which is premised on the notion of public participation through a consultation process when making draft plans.

Although publications are also done after the adoption of the draft plan, members of the public are proactively involved in the planning system.

Almost similar steps are followed in the preparation of local plans; hence the same observations as in preparation and implementation of master plans apply.

The Act does not see the role of civil society/interest groups or in its language the public beyond preparation of plans.

The minister wields tremendous powers in the Act.

The residents of a local authority cannot dissolve their council, but the minister can.

The powers vested in the minister must be given to the residents and citizens for instance, the power to dissolve a council.

A good example is that of the City of Cape Town Municipal By-Laws.

The minister is not directly involved in the whole system. Power is devolved to local authorities.

The minister gets involved at the stage of adoption of the proposed plans.

There is need to trim ministerial powers in the Regional Town and Country Planning Act to ensure that power is decentralised from the central government to the local authorities.

Additionally, nowhere in the Act does it provide for civic participation in the preparation of the regional plan.

The Act is characterised by delegation rather than decentralisation of power and functions.

The Act is built upon the concept of upward accountability and not local accountability.

The minister is responsible for local government and has a say in any issues and not the local people or civic groups.

Central government retains firm control over all local authorities with powers to suspend the enabling legislation, suspend a local authority and put in an administrator.

There is no provision that gives recognition and acknowledgement to the existence of civic groups such as residents associations.

By contrast in Mozambique, the election of representatives into councils is not restricted to partisanship.

Civic groups are allowed to nominate a candidate to stand for election.

Members of the local government board should be accountable to a committee or commission and not an individual.

There are higher chances of abuse of power. In Kenya a country government shall not be suspended unless an independent commission of inquiry has investigated allegations against the country government and the President is satisfied that the allegations are justified, and the senate has authorised the suspension.

In Uganda, the mandate of an elected member of a local government council may be revoked by the electorate.

Parliament shall by law, prescribe the grounds upon which and the manner in which the electorate may revoke the mandate of an elected member of a local government council.

The powers of the minister of Local Government are too much especially considering that his position is through political appointment.

He is the same minister responsible for the Regional, Town and Country Planning Act as well.

This is problematic in our current situation where all groups that are not government-related are treated as opposition.

It means even when there are excellent proposals coming from a credible organisation like VISET on issues of planning and creating a conducive environment for informal traders, such will be disregarded on perceived political grounds.

The minister in terms of section 221 has the power to approve any proposed revenue-generating activities by council.

The minister once again has excessive powers which stifle development.

There should be an independent body which counter checks the minister's unilateral powers.

The making of by-laws need to include interested parties and not to wait for their input at the objections stage. 

The South African Business Act of 1971 gives local municipalities the power to make by laws governing each municipality.

A provision like that should be incorporated in this Act at it ensures devolution of power from the central government to local authorities.

Enabling local authorities to formulate by-laws enables integration of informal traders in the national economy.

  • Samuel Wadzai* is the executive director Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (VISET). Feedback: Email address: [email protected].
  • These weekly Insights articles are coordinated by Lovemore Kadenge, an independent consultant, managing consultant of Zawale Consultants (Private) Limited, past president of the Zimbabwe Economics Society (ZES) and past president of the Chartered Governance & Accountancy Institute in Zimbabwe (CGI Zimbabwe) Email- [email protected] and Mobile No. +263 772 382 852


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