The evolution of decentralisation policy in developing countries : a policy analysis of devolution in Zimbabwe.
The COPAC-driven constitution-making process in Zimbabwe was largely focused on revamping local governance and ensuring a return to democracy. The attempts were mainly focused on checking the power of the executive in a bid to institutionalise separation of powers by empowering the legislative and judicial arms of the state. However the most critical power-sharing objective was the reform of intergovernmental balance of power between the central government and subnational government structures; the provincial, urban and rural local authorities. This was captured in the ideology of devolution of power, which was set as fundamental principle of good governance repealing the erstwhile centralised system of government. The hope was that this shift of preference will be enshrined in the 2013 Constitution. However this study notes that this public optimism has not been sufficiently met in the new constitution, which is officially dubbed ‘Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 20) Act, 2013’. The study argues that the provisions for devolution in the 2013 Constitution are inconsequential and betray a lack of political will by the central government to devolve authority and resources to local governments. The extensive reliance on impending Acts of Parliament to clarify and give effect to devolution, such as the administrative, political and fiscal competencies of different tiers of government, creates a weak framework for decentralisation which is tantamount to the continuation of the existing status quo, in which subnational governments are de facto deconcentrated appendages of central government. Notwithstanding this major setback in the aspirations of devolution in Zimbabwe, this study recommends that extensive civil society engagement with the central government which has been evidenced over the last couple of years can still reclaim the reforms initially agreed to by the ruling elite during the negotiations thereby ensuring the institutionalisation of devolution in Zimbabwe.