By Tinashe Chigwata
The discussion has shown that there is no coherent approach to assigning powers and responsibilities to provincial and metropolitan councils whose composition is also the subject of debate.
Thus, the starting point of implementing the provincial structure should be to clarify or identify the place and role of provincial and metropolitan councils in Zimbabwe’s multi-level system of government.
If the objective is to make councils real govts, then real governmental powers and responsibilities must be devolved to them.
In addition, Nyathi and Dube argue that provincial structures should be directly elected by the people of the respective provinces so that they can be genuinely autonomous from the centre.
The abolition of the representation of national government officials (such as parliamentarians) in provincial and metropolitan councils may be the starting point towards that end.
If the decision to make these councils real governments is taken, then the number of provinces and the basis for delineating provincial boundaries are some of the many issues which may be reconsidered.
Whether the chosen number of provinces should exercise uniform powers and undertake similar responsibilities is another important matter for consideration.
Another option is for provincial and metropolitan councils to be positioned merely as intergovernmental relations structures that are charged with promoting cooperative governance and co-ordinating government programmes including integrated planning and implementation.
If the provincial and metropolitan councils are no more than intergovernmental relations structures then there is no need to constitutionally recognise them as tiers of government.
It follows from this reasoning that such structures should not be given real govt duties of making expenditure decisions and implementing them as they may be unequipped in democracy terms to do so.
The current composition of the councils is compatible with such intergovernmental relations duties; but the function of socio-economic development suggests that the councils are more than intergovernmental relations structures.
If the benefits associated with devolution are to be realised, the temptation to have provincial and metropolitan councils that look like a government yet are not, should be ignored.
In the 2019 Budget Speech, Minister Ncube indicated that the principles of the Provincial Councils and Administration Amendment Bill, which provides for mechanisms of decentralisation and devolution had been approved by Cabinet.
It was unclear at the time of writing what the principles entail, particularly whether provincial and metropolitan councils are being positioned as a level of government or merely as an administrative level.