Proposed local authorities bill dictatorial

Published: 31 October Bulawayo Agenda Newsletter – Ideas Festival 2014
By Michael Mdladla Ndiweni
Civil society organizations have questioned the motive behind the proposed harmonised Local authorities’ bill that gives too much power to the minister to make decisions on behalf of communities. They argued that a dangerous precedence has been set before where the ministry of local government has interfered with making of decisions by various local authorities in the country. This came out during the Civil Society Constitutional review held a local hotel as part of the Ideas Festival 2014. This local authorities bill is consolidation of Rural Councils(Chap 29:11) and Urban Councils Acts(Chap 29:15). It seeks to put the two into one Act of Parliament.
The Local Authorities Bill presents two main opportunities: (1) the implementation of provisions of the constitution which require an Act of Parliament and (2) reviewing some problematic provisions of one or other of the two Acts with a view to either improving some of them or removing them altogether. The constitution says there must be an Act that provides for local authorities. The proposed bill appears to be a copy and paste of the two previous act. Speaking at the constitutional review conference Tineyi Mukwewa programmes coordinator with Abammeli Human Rights Lawyers said “The bill has a weakness that it gives the president express prerogative that he or she may consult it does not guarantee the participation of citizen, it also gives unfettered powers to the minister responsible” The bill does not provide for the remittance of resources from central government to the provincial councils. He urged Civil society organizations and other stakeholders to learn best practices from other countries and proffer alternatives bills for example what Combined Harare Residents Associations who have sponsored a devolution bill and to lobby the government to include clear mechanisms for accountability in allocating and managing resources.
Civil society organizations also assessed progress made on the implementation of the Chapter 14 that provides for the Devolution of governmental powers through establishment of Provincials and metropolitan councils act. Addressing delegates at the conference Lizwe Jamela from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said that there is no enabling Act that has been enacted instead the president appointed provincial affairs ministers who are still operating as Governors from the previous constitutional dispensation and that this is a violation of Electoral laws in Zimbabwe.
Participants at the conference raised questions on the proposed Provincial and Metropolitan Councils on where does it put the district administrators or provincial administrators, the bill is silent on the provincial affairs minister. It speaks about provincial pieces of legislation but it is not clear on how this process will be done.

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