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‘Negotiations critical for peaceful devolution’

Devolution is one of the topical issues that dominated the debate during outreach meetings by the Constitution Select Committee (Copac).
Calls for devolutions were more pronounced in provinces of Matabeleland, Midlands and Manicaland, where communities feel resources from their areas were being extracted for the benefit of other provinces, especially Harare.

The provinces are awash with minerals such as diamonds, emeralds and gold, but they lag behind in terms of development prompting locals to agitate for the control of their own resources.

Analysts said devolution removes all bottlenecks and red tape created by the current centralist governance system and encourages cultural and social diversity.

South African-based analyst George Mkhwananzi said devolution was not power-neutral and could not be pursued without regard to political sensibilities within a country.

“As such, while the will of the majority as reflected in their input at the outreach programmes should be accommodated in the new constitution, there will always be the interests of some strategic groupings who need to be assured that the new changes are not coming to strangle them out of existence,” said Mkhwananzi.

He added, “It is here that negotiations must come in; to eliminate suspicions and to suggest safeguards against abuse.”

Mkhwananzi said from preliminary reports of the views gathered countrywide, devolution was vastly popular because only two provinces did not out rightly demand it.

Admore Tshuma, an expert on social justice, concurred that negotiations on devolution were necessary because Zanu PF was against the concept.
“As such, there should be negotiations fronted by selected influential but politically-untainted people of Matabeleland who might be technocrats with various political and socio-economic skills,” Tshuma said.

If local negotiations fail, said Tshuma, marginalised groups must seek outside help from such bodies as the United Nations.

Sydney Chisi, the director of the Youth Initiative for Democracy In Zimbabwe (YIDEZ) said stakeholders’ dialogues were important to design frameworks that would accommodate what each region can offer to the central government without marginalising those who might have nothing or those that have benefited more since independence.

Mthwakazi Liberation Front leader Paul Siwela said, “devolution has been overtaken by the need for sovereignty and self-determination.
“The Mthwakazi people are no longer interested to be part of colonial Zimbabwe which has given them pain, shame and loss of dignity over the years”.


Kenya destabilised after devolution


While marginalised regions in Zimbabwe clamour for devolution, there is turmoil in Kenya, one of the African countries that recently devolved after adopting a new constitution, as tribes fight for resources.

But analysts say the prospect of real political and budgetary power, concentrated since independence in distant Nairobi, water, pasture and cattle-raid vendettas, now drive the violence in other parts of the country and has left dozens dead and tens of thousands displaced recently.

The Kenyan devolution system still maintains a unitary political concept as a result of distribution of functions between the two levels of government since some statutes of that country’s constitution gives the president the power to suspend a county government.

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