Calls for the devolution of power are not something new. They were actually part of the proposed National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) constitution which was produced after wide consultations with the people.
NCA chairman Lovemore Madhuku agreed that devolution is a national issue recently through the VoA website where he was quoted saying: “If you were to come to the NCA, we do not have Matabeleland positions. Our position is very clear, that there must be devolution in a people-driven constitution and that is not a Matabeleland issue, it’s an issue for the whole country,”
Therefore, President Mugabe and his allies’ arguments indicate a deliberate distortion to mislead the people of Zimbabwe. He thinks he can overrule the decisions of the people as shown by his threats to use his presidential powers to force an early election.
This is a clear indication that Mugabe is himself actually a threat to the national constitution-making process which he seeks to tarnish. His sentiments are also a clear sign of Zanu PF’s contempt of the people’s needs and interests. They further expose his dictatorial psyche which over the years has seen his government amending the constitution 19 times so as to protect itself.
Mugabe’s comments also indicate that he does not understand the concept of constitutionalism which is a guiding principle for any democratic country. It is no surprise actually that Mugabe’s comments reflect his ivory-tower leadership stance that has over the years failed to invest in legitimacy but rather coercion.
Mugabe and his Zanu PF must understand that they are not above the law and should abide by constitutionalism, through recognising popular sovereignty, separation of powers, checks and balances and division of power as key governance guiding tools.
This kind of obduracy by Mugabe further depicts his failure to appreciate and embrace the rule of law and the concept of multi-partism hence his futile efforts to take Zimbabweans for granted by attempting to decide the fate of devolution. In the past, Mugabe and his then government enacted oppressive pieces of legislation; the misnamed Public Order and Security Act (Posa) and Access to Information Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa) which have consolidated their ambition in suppressing democracy through subjugating the masses. The fact that Mugabe once said the bullet should protect the ballot is testimony to his tyrannical stance to remain in power.
Reports on violence, intimidation, bussing and coaching of people by Zanu PF during the constitution-making process is evidence that Mugabe and his party are out of touch with the people. They have and continue to undermine the intellect of Zimbabweans on devolution, a sign of disdain and dictatorship reflected in his efforts to derail the constitution-making process.
It is not a mystery, but reality that the unitary system of government has failed as shown by media reports of quandaries in local government which are ignited and fuelled by the misinformed of Local Government minister, Ignatius Chombo. His abuse of ministerial powers has caused turmoil in the local government system as he, retrogressively, interferes with operations of local authorities by suspending councillors and not approving budgets on time as well as delaying decision-making processes.
All this has frustrated development efforts as the minister pursues party and personal interest at the expense of the people. This justifies and concretises the people’s belief in the devolution of power so that they exercise autonomy and semi-independence in decision-making for efficiency and effectiveness.
A recent report that a pregnant woman had to walk 18 km to access a clinic where she gave birth to triplets in Insuza, Matabeleland North, also reflects the failure of unitary system; as does cries of the people of Marange over diamonds whose income has not benefited them. All this implies that those against the devolution of power like President Mugabe are actually perpetuating these atrocious living conditions to which people are subjected while their resources are looted.
I urge Zimbabweans to be vigilant, defend and demand their views to be included in the new constitution. We recognise and appreciate Copac statements on the principles of the constitution, noting that they recognise decentralisation and devolution, a sign of respect for the views of the people.
Dube is a member of Bulawayo Agenda