Making devolution a reality

Sharon Hofisi Legal Letters
Terminologically, devolution involves delegation by the central Government to a regional authority the legislative or executive functions (or both) relating to domestic issues within the region (Law and Martin 2009: 169).

Contextually speaking, devolution is enshrined in Chapter 15 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment No.20, 2013.

It must be pursued to promote unity and must not be used to form breakaway States through secession. Although secession is a mode of acquisition of territory, the Constitution prohibits such a move in instances where power would have been allocated to certain provinces.

Section 3 of the Constitution also provides that devolution is part of the founding values or principles in Zimbabwe. What is evident from the above is that devolution is guided by the normative nomenclature in the Constitution.

Section 5 of the Constitution lists tiers of Government which include national Government, metropolitan provinces and local authorities (rural or urban). National Government includes the three branches under the Montesquieu categorisation which include the Executive (section 88ff), the Judiciary (section 162ff) and the Legislature (section 116ff).

Yes, the Executive may frequently make key decisions with its arms such as the presidium, Cabinet and the Attorney-General, there is nothing amiss.

The normative nomenclature on devolution calls for a value-based approach to utilising local resources.

Because Zimbabwe’s 10 provinces are endowed with different land and natural resources, there is need to build models on how locals can niche synergies that improve their living standards and foster a culture of sustainable community development within their respective territories.

Because economists measure living standards using real output per person or Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita, economists have to be involved in ensuring that the envisaged models speak to local economic advantages.

Some communities have minerals, deeply arable lands, various flora and fauna, tourist attractions and rich trade zones.

Drive along major highways and you see a hive of activity: various works of craft are displayed ranging from embroidered and weaved materials, someone is selling fish or roasted birds and so forth.

The informal traders have different acumen to woo customers. They are proud of their local language or farm produces.

Economic or social models must empower members of different provinces to divide the pie, while at the same time exploiting the opportunities they have for the betterment of their communities.

The fight to utilise resources effectively must lead to win-win negotiations between locals and prospective utilisers and investors. Provinces with mineral resources for example must understand the current legal framework and Government policy. Government relaxed laws relating to other minerals save diamond and platinum.

They must know how they can navigate around indigenous laws and other changes, researchers, funders or role played by institutions such as the Zimbabwe Consolidated Mining Company.

They must also know that mining contributes to key aspects such as the GDP, exports, fiscal revenue, and foreign direct investment (FDI) and employment (ZEPARU 2017).

The negative effects of illegal mining must also be unpacked. Besides harvesting positives, considerations on best ways to address problems of land degradation, poor gulley reclamation, conflicts between legal and illegal miners and other community concerns must be made using local and tested methods of resolving resource conflicts.

The resources to be exploited under devolution must be sensitive to the environmental, land and property rights and freedoms protected in the Constitution.

Whether an investor or local partner wants to embed competitive advantage, niche a contract-based or joint venture agreement in farming, mining, industry or other innovative aspects, they are obligated to use the Constitution, legal frameworks, local customs, and other governmental policy considerations in one way or another.

Funding/investment capacities may pose more problems than solutions when it comes to unguarded involvement. The relevance and effective participation of locals must strive to build effective partnerships, entrench horizontal and vertical information pathways, and should achieve win-win outcomes in resource utilisation so that devolution is realised.

Where devolution is based on wildlife flora and fauna, a call to other national institutions, including civil society, academic institutions, and independent consultants must be made so that they submit proposals, policy papers or briefs targeting the sustainable conservation of any or all of the local species.

Further, information on local values/norms/mores, sacred cultural sites, and zoning of traditional hierarchies should be prioritised and relevant monitoring and evaluation tools must be developed.

Having cross-jurisdiction traditional leadership to identify shared resources and avoid resource wars or conflicts must get all levels of leadership involved in tapping the resources to deliver for the common good of the local and national polity.

Imagine thinking you get a good deal in a rural area endowed with resources only to be told you got a raw deal, this is Chief X’s jurisdiction? You are in the middle of out-sourcing expertise and capital when, suddenly, your brain project seems to short-circuit.

But after all is said and done, devolution must be done within the ambit of the Constitution and the laid down national framework currently obtaining under the “Embracing Devolution to achieve Vision 2030”.

We must also consider the African vision as espoused in Agenda 63 and the global vision espoused in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

There are many institutions, CSOs, CBOs and academic institutions working in the area of sustainable development, land and natural resource conservation and bioethics.

With the Government showing readiness and political will to embrace devolution, what is left is for other political, governance and academic players to add their will power to oil the devolution wheel.

Reliably considering competitive and comparative advantages of each province demand that concerned players engage using grounded/bottom-up approaches, focus on detailed appreciations of local partner needs and concerns, entrench collaborative considerations with environmentalists/ conservationists/bioethicists/multidisciplinary researchers.

All this must be based on properly honed inter community networks that seek to innovate on best ways to make devolution a reality.

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