WHEN opening the firt session of the Ninth Parliament of Zimbabwe in September 2018, President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced that his government would table six Bills in Parliament that were urgent in promoting accountability in natural resource governance. Amendments to the Mines and Minerals Act (Chapter 21:05), Forestry Act (Chapter 19:05), Gold Trade Bill and Precious Stones Trade Bill were important to address issues of mining titles and contracts, community empowerment, revenue transparency, compensation and mineral leakages to name but just a few.
Amending the Mines and Minerals Act was also urgent to foreclose policy gaps by bringing it in harmony with numerous laws governing natural resources such as the Rural District Councils Act (Chapter 29:13), Forestry Act, Environmental Management Act (20:27), Water Act (20:24), Parks and Wildlife Act (20:14) and Communal Lands Act (20:04).
Improving laws governing natural resources alone without devolving government powers to local institutions would not promote accountability and sustainable development.
Thus Mnangagwa proposed to table before the Ninth Parliament the Provincial and Metropolitan Councils Bill in order to devolve power from central government to lower tiers of government. In line with devolution, the Bill sought to establish provincial councils to run the social and economic developments in the country’s 10 provinces.
Therefore, a proposal was also made by Mnangagwa to align the Traditional Leaders’ Act (29:17) and the Rural District Councils Act with devolution as enshrined in chapter 14 of the Constitution.
Traditional leaders and rural district councils are members of the provincial councils. They are responsible for running local affairs of people within the areas of their jurisdiction. However, none of these Bills have been tabled in Parliament by Mnangagwa’s administration, almost half way through the third session of the Ninth Parliament of Zimbabwe.
In June 2020, Zimbabweans overwhelmingly rejected proposed amendments to the Constitution in the public consultation meetings carried out by Parliament. Government tabled Constitutional Amendment No 2 Bill in Parliament in 2020 aimed at centralising State power in the hands of the President. The Bill, now signed into law, seeks to empower the President to appoint his two Vice-Presidents, appoint the prosecutor-general without public interviews, appoint sitting judges to higher posts without subjecting them to public interviews as well, extend the retirement age of judges from 70 to 75 years, enter into agreements with international entities without the need for approval from Parliament, among other issues.
Despite public disapproval of the Bill, Parliament moved with speed a fortnight ago to sail the Bill through the Lower and Upper Houses of Parliament. Government manipulated the whipping system and a fragmented opposition in Parliament to ensure the Bill was approved. The trampling of the people’s is meant to entrench authoritarianism.
Centre for Research and Development in Zimbabwe