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CSOs, churches demand Devolution Bill public hearings

MATABELELAND civic society organisations (CSOs) and churches are calling on political players to steer clear of the devolution process, which they say should be Parliament and citizens-driven.

BY SILAS NKALA

The 66 organisations, which met in Bulawayo on Tuesday, where they drafted a communiqué to be handed to government, are pushing for Parliament to conduct public hearings on devolution to ensure citizens’ participation in the process.

“Participants wholeheartedly took the opportunity to dream of a change from political dictatorship into a phase of participatory democracy,” the communiqué reads.

“As devolution is an issue that has come from citizens, participants felt that any developments must be legitimised by public processes.

“The conference was also in effect a gathering to escalate the citizen-driven action campaign for an inclusive and fully devolved system of governance alive and in sync with our economic, social and cultural contexts. Devolution has been a long-term campaign for Matabeleland, stretching into four decades; a campaign rooted in the desire to control resources found in Matabeleland and play an active citizenship role in their governance.”

The organisations said through their lobbying, devolution was included in the Constitution [Chapter 14] and this has seen various political formations using the concept in their campaigns during elections in 2018, including President Emmerson Mnangagwa and MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa.

Mnangagwa has, however, pledged to implement devolution.

The Constitution provides for eight provincial councils and two metropolitan provincial councils that will spearhead local development.

The CSOs and church organisations said in ensuring proper governance, there are non-negotiable principles which need to be implemented such as the depoliticisation of appointments and development structures from village to district and provincial or metropolitan levels.

“Conference demanded that the devolved system of governance should only feature elected officials and there must be removal of duplicative partisan political centres of power such as the office of resident ministers, provincial and district administrators. If appointments are necessary for incremental devolution, it has to be appointment on merit,” the communiqué reads.

The CSOs also called for de-securitisation of development structures, decentralisation of economic development, beneficiation and value addition of all local products to promote and incentivise communities.

“We, the people of Matabeleland North, South and Bulawayo, demand that there be speedy implementation of devolution, that our demands be considered in the drafting of the National Devolution Bill, our right to speak be recognised, our right to be heard and for our contributions to be understood,” the communiqué reads.

Devolution must apply in operations, employment, education, decentralised registration processes, district administration and all structures under them to be appointed on merit.

They submitted that provincial councils must be voted for and funds for devolution must be controlled by local councils.

The conference was attended by 130 members of different churches and civic organisations.

Source :

NewsDay

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