Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa has admitted messing up on devolution but pledged, tongue in cheek, to donate civil servants’ salaries towards funding the programme.
According to the national constitution government must provide for the setting up of structures to superintend over the affairs of the provinces.
Chinamasa was last week taken to task by MPs over government’s failure to comply with the constitutional provision which was ironically cited among the reasons for then President Robert Mugabe’s impeachment by MPs.
“We also accept Mr. Speaker Sir that we have not been entirely complying with the Constitution with respect to devolution, with respect to the 5 percent equalisation,” Chinamasa said while responding presentations by MPs on the 2018 budget.
“We want to promise this august House that we will certainly, after the elections, enter into debate consultations on how this could be achieved,” Chinamasa said amid interjections from MPs who asked why he felt he would still be minister after elections.
“No, it does not matter; whoever comes. You know there is succession issue, whoever comes – you know succession is not just at the presidential level. Whoever comes as Minister of Finance will know that I made a promise to consult over the modalities of effecting these constitutional provisions.”
Chinamasa said nearly the entire budget was being chewed by government wages leaving him with little to channel towards developmental projects, let alone release funds towards devolution.
“… All the money is going to wages. What are you asking me to give to the provinces? Is it the salaries of people employed in the provinces, those are issues we should debate.
“There is no problem as far as I am concerned to say, how many doctors are in Manicaland, how many nurses, how many teachers, how many Government employees in that province; come up with a total of their wages and then you say, this is now the Provincial Vote for Manicaland. Let us discuss and agree how we are going to do it.”
The new Constitution created eight provincial councils with 10 councillors each, envisaged to be elected through proportional representation.
Devolution remains an emotive issue in the country especially among resource rich and marginalised provinces.
The governance system allows provinces to be the main beneficiaries of their resources as opposed to the current case in which nearly every decision is centralised.
Manicaland, home to one of the world’s richest alluvial diamond deposits, has nothing to show for its wealth while Matebeleland provinces, which claim decades of systematic marginalisation under former President Robert Mugabe, have led the demands for autonomy from central government.
In his 2018 budget statement he delivered in December, Chinamasa touched a raw nerve when he hinted at the possible abandonment of devolution while citing fiscal challenges.