BY VUSINDLU MAPHOSA
Questions are being raised as to whether the devolution concept being implemented by the government through only disbursement of funds to local authorities is the one which people overwhelmingly contributed to during the constitution making process.
On November 6 this year, Local Government minister July Moyo at the invitation by Nkayi North legislator Sithembiso Nyoni visited Nkayi district where representatives of the Nkayi Community Parliament comprising Arthur Moyo, Richard Majwabu and Cosmas Kudzanai took the opportunity to meet and question him on the concept of devolution.
During the meeting, Moyo revealed that Nkayi district had been given $12 million devolution funds through the Nkayi Rural District Council for development projects.
The community members asked the minister who decides projects to be implemented under devolution, whether some districts are given more money than others and if he had been satisfied with how the devolution projects are being implemented across the country and particularly in Nkayi.
“Nkayi was recently given $12 million devolution funds. The districts decide and implement their own projects without any interference from central government,” Moyo, said responding to the questions.
He further said indeed some districts are allocated more funds than others as an indexing system is used whereby districts with more infrastructural deficit and high poverty levels are allocated more money.
He said in Matabeleland North, Nkayi had the second highest allocation with the first one being Binga.
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On whether he was satisfied with the way devolution was being implemented in the country in general and in Nkayi in particular, Moyo said, “If I were satisfied I wouldn’t have been here.”
He expressed displeasure with the slow implementation of the projects in Nkayi which he says is taking time to utilize funds adding that currently, the district has $12 million deposited in its account.
Moyo said there is evidence of a lack of monitoring and supervision of the devolution projects but notes that he understands that the Council Chairman (Jameson Mnethwa) and the Chief Executive Officer (Lawrence Mudimba) have challenges in terms of institutional and human capital which militate against the effective implementation of the devolution projects.
Ministry’s staffers have since been directed to conduct a systems audit and capacitate the local authority.
During the same interface, Nyoni told the minister that she was concerned with the poor state of schools’ infrastructure at Nkayi in general and in her Constituency in particular.
“I started the construction of 12 schools in my constituency using the Constituency Development Fund which are at various levels. Cabinet directed that devolution funds be channelled towards rehabilitating existing school infrastructure and also finishing schools at various levels,” Nyoni said.
She said schools in the district are set to benefit from this cabinet directive and the district would convene a meeting in January 2022 to review and map the way forward on this decision.
However, following the discussion, the Nkayi Community Parliament representatives who attended the meeting made feedback to the group amid outrage over how the government is implementing devolution.
Nkosilathi Ncube of Dlawa village said devolution of power brought through the backdoor will never work.
“We need to distinguish between devolution of power which is in the national constitution and devolution of funds which is a mere social concept without any legal bearing. Our bedrock should be devolution of power to local authorities.” Ncube said.
“In the case of Nkayi District, we should ask the question: To whom has power been devolved? If funds for development are brought to Nkayi, have those funds suddenly been given the newest nice name of devolution funds?”
Ncube said by any standards the government is not genuine by even the smallest measurement and it should be serious with devolution.
A villager and human rights activist, Effie Ncube said there is yet to be devolution of power in Zimbabwe.
“You can’t devolve to an unelected District Development Coordinator and call that devolution. You cannot send money to an RDC account and call that devolution. We need a clear law first and then the money will follow that law,” Ncube said.
“Devolving outside the law raises very serious accountability and transparency issues. This community Parliament must be on its best guard. I hope in future our government will take us serious. We need power in the hands of people first before the money. I hope our MPs and senator will go to Parliament and propose that we need devolution of power not devolution of money.”
A villager and local educationist Anastasia Moyo said: “We need implementation of Chapter 14 of our constitution. They are committing crimes, these people. They just want to confuse men and women particularly in rural areas.”
Another villager, Fred Sikhosana said the government should be serious with devolution than just disbursing money, claiming its devolution.
- *This article was originally published by The Citizen Bulletin, a nonprofit news organisation that produces hard-hitting, hyperlocal reporting and analysis for the southwestern region of Matabeleland.