Devolution as a Key to Regional Development
Since assuming office, President Mnangagwa has been looking at all possible options that are available to him to open development opportunities for the people of Zimbabwe. He realizes that Zimbabwe has been stagnated developmentally due to a host of reasons but most notably, the fall out with a number of key nations in the world. Any attempts to pursue development strategies outside the global network of nations resulted in Zimbabwe’s isolation driven by erstwhile nations some of whom responded by placing the country under devastating sanctions.
The standoff between Zimbabwe and Britain and its allies denied the country access to investment flows, technology and access to markets. Consequently, the country’s industries were wiped out and the few that remained lacked capacity and certainly did not have financial resources to retool resulting in massive factory closures leaving a lot of people out of employment. Most provincial towns lost their economic wherewithal and naturally became a pale shadow of their past as most businesses abandoned their factories due to an inhospitable economic and political environment that existed in the country up until recently.
Most regional towns and their surrounding districts have been struggling to get back to life but the slow economic recovery accompanied by poor public infrastructure and service delivery including a high cost of doing business in Zimbabwe, did not help the situation.
Consequently, Zimbabwe has witnessed one of the highest levels of business informalization as the citizens resorted to self help in the absence of a strong economic base. The reality is that unless all activities in the informal sector are rechanneled to the main stream economy so that their efforts are stream lined in order to meet basic quality standards, the country may never be able to avoid being a dumping ground for all sorts of sub standard products from all over the world.
While current efforts at attracting foreign direct investment is commendable but the long term economic recovery requires the participation of local citizens in the exploitation and management of resources in their localities. This is important for sustainable social and economic development.
Given that the Constitution of Zimbabwe 2013sets a clear foundation and guidelines for local development driven by provincial and local government structures, the President’s recent announcement on going ahead with devolution is a step in the right direction as these local institutions are given the power to pursue the development of their areas on basis of their needs and the resources available in their areas albeit in line with the national vision and objectives.
The devolution policy ensures effective citizen participation in their own development through carefully orchestrated development plans and effective management of natural, financial and human resources. The objective of devolution is clearly to reduce poverty, ensure equitable distribution of resources and services, promote democracy and economic empowerment particularly of women and youths and most importantly, those with devolved responsibilities must promote programmes that foster peace, unity and the principle of the indivisibility of the Republic.
Nearly all Provinces in Zimbabwe are endowed with rich natural resources of one sort or another and if given good, responsible and accountable leadership, the devolution strategy may significantly contribute to the revival of economic growth in the provinces as they compete for serious investment attraction. Devolution is meaningless unless its primary focus is on social and economic development through citizen participation and those in office must understand that they hold their positions in trust and on behalf of the people.
Indeed, the President is right in wanting to get people to take charge of their own destiny by managing their own affairs to create and further development in their respective areas, pursue a modernization programme for their provinces through enhanced education and training programmes resulting in employment opportunities for young people in the provinces.
President Mnangagwa has a limitless appetite to create a legacy of success and to build an environment in which the people of Zimbabwe reconnect with their country and find it the most exciting and livable place on earth. Giving people the opportunity to run their own affairs for their own and the nation’s development is the best thing that can ever happen to anyone.
Politicians love power even when they have no need for it therefore, a transfer of power to the people through devolution is a brave move to take for any politician. Zimbabwe is ready for devolution and steps must be taken to ensure that each province is managed by a capable leadership in order to reap benefits that come with the transfer of power to the lowest echelons of society.