Just like digitalisation, devolution is slowly dying a natural death, reduced to a state function nicety and empty aphorism for the state media and propagandists to latch onto and harp about.
The political establishment in the country has remained unconvinced of its safety if they allow both a life of their own.
All effective governance systems should retain an order in which governments are vulnerable to public sentiment and subsequent potential electoral sanctions.
Devolution creates such a scenario.
For devolution however government has only fulfilled acceptable provisions whilst ignoring other sections which it finds uncomfortable.
Thus devolution money has been distributed with much aplomb yet the necessary and constitutionally required structures have not been put in place.
Money doled out means more control and leverage outward while structures will result in loss of central government’s power.
In 2019 government allocated ZWL$310 million under the National budget towards the 10 provinces whilst in 2020 it allocated ZW$6 billion.
Critics have however accused government of operating without any specific legislative guiding Act, distribution network for the funds and structures to operationalize the process.
“In terms of structure, nothing much has been done except some piece meal appointments, some of which are in contradiction with the Constitution.
“We are developing a policy brief on that issue and we will share once it’s out”, says Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA).
Absence of devolution structures essentially means central government remains in control of those outlier local government structures which they have given money.
Devolution Structures Are Still Missing
According to the Constitution provincial and metropolitan Councils are supposed to be constituted by a combination of elected and appointed officials.
According to ZimFact, “A total of 10 directly elected officials, all members of Parliament, the president of the Council of Chiefs and his deputy make up the provincial council in the 8 provinces”.
“The metropolitan council is constituted by all members of Parliament, Mayors, chairpersons, deputy mayors and deputy chairpersons in the province”.
Among the varied roles of these Councils is the coordination and implementation of governmental programmes.
Covid programmes would fall under this.
Decentralised Covid Programmes
It is through these devolution structures that the fight against Covid could have been done rapidly and effectively without the stagnating bureaucracy that retards most programmes done at a national level.
In the developed nations where the vaccination programs are being rolled out there has been so much use of devolved structures to effectively carry out the programme.
In the US, which has a federal government system, which is a variation of devolution, the independent states are rapidly rolling out their programmes independently and effectively.
In Washington, the state has combined with private players such as Starbucks Corp whilst in North Carolina the state is working with Honeywell, Atrium Health and Tepper Sports and Entertainment.
The localisation of the vaccination programmes has resulted in greater cooperation across state and private sector players.
This could have been the same here if devolution had been properly effected and metropolitan councils had been brought into effective existence unlike the current scenario where government has created a phantom system understood only by itself.
Such is the confusion surrounding the current status of devolution structures and systems that the Community Water Alliance Trust, CHRA and legislator Allan Markham have previously sought a court order to against government.
The order sought to have the allocation of ZW$400 million in 2019 and ZW$6 billion in 2020, using a formula only known to government to be declared unlawful and in breach of the Constitution.
With such fraudulent systems in place it’s clear that any fight against Covid for now is still centralised and it will resultantly take longer to bear fruit.
Whereas the 2013 constitution had laid the groundwork for a system that allows for effective carrying out of national programmes the political fear in the government means we are still at the mercy of centralised bureaucracy.
Communities are still at the mercy of central authority and will have to wait for any Covid programmes to trickle down from high up.