President Mugabe ‘dumps’ devolution

THE appointment of Ministers of State for Provincial Affairs by President Robert Mugabe has all but effectively suppressed devolution of power, a concept enshrined in the new Constitutions, the opposition MDCs have warned.

NQOBILE BHEBHE, CHIEF REPORTER

On Tuesday, Mugabe picked 10 members of his party and appointed them ministers for each of the country’s provinces, raising fears that these were equivalent to governors the new Constitution had done away with.

MDC legal affairs secretary David Coltart said the appointment of the ministers would create leadership hierarchy challenges in provinces.

“I was totally surprised by the appointment of 10 Ministers of State for Provincial affairs,” he said.

“The end result is that devolution is no longer feasible.

“This will cause problems as to who would be in charge of provinces, considering that there will be provincial councils.”
Coltart said although the President was not restricted on the number of ministers he could appoint, the 10 resident ministers would be an extra cost.

MDC-T secretary-general Tendai Biti recently said devolution of power would be among Zanu PF’s first casualties as the party was heavily opposed to the concept.

“Since the old governors were, in fact, resident ministers, Mugabe will simply appoint a group of what he will call resident ministers,” he warned.

“Once this is done, it will be the effective end of devolution as designed by the Constitution.

“Of particular challenge is the speed with which the new provincial governance law necessary to give effect to devolution is enacted.”

Trevor Maisiri, a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group, yesterday said these appointments would ensure that power remained centralised.

“Devolution is under severe threat,” he warned.

“The appointment of Ministers of State for Provincial Affairs has dashed hopes of decentralising power.

“Those provincial ministers will report directly to the President, hence their interaction with provincial councils or mayors of respective areas will be superficial. They will override every programme set to be taken in their respective provinces.”

Maisiri said the provincial councils were now a sub-structure of local government, rendering mayors redundant.

“As for the mayors from the opposition MDC-T, they have been rendered irrelevant before they assume office, more so in that the man who was constantly at loggerheads with local authorities controlled by MDC-T, Ignatius Chombo, is still heading the Local Government ministry,” he said.

Mugabe and Chombo openly resisted devolution during the constitution-making exercise saying it would divide the country on ethnic lines.

The clause was only included after intense horse trading between the MDC formations and Zanu PF.

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