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Devolution – The Missing link!

Compiled by Kudakwashe Makanda

The poverty that characterizes most mining communities is as a result of inadequate basic amenities such as health, education, infrastructure and employment creation to mention but just a few. The main reason why such basic amenities are inadequate in most mining communities is because the local authorities get too little in taxes to be capacitated enough to provide the much-needed basic services. And yet if one is to look at the raw minerals that are transported out of these mining communities to the borders for exportation, one starts to wonder where the missing link is.

The Devolution and Decentralization Policy which was recently launched is anchored on the notion that the grassroots should have full control of their local resources and should be actively involved in their resources’ management. However, the biggest challenge is that this notion is not yet a reality! It is just a theory being half implemented.

Mutoko District in Mashonaland East province is ranked amongst the top ten poorest and least developed districts in the country and yet it is the major source of the world’s best black granite. This mineral is mined and exported to Europe, South Africa, Mozambique and yet the local people are wallowing in abject poverty and have nothing to show for it. The schools and clinics are inadequately sourced, for instance in Nyamuganhu ward five, which is a ward where the granite is mined their clinic has been under construction for close to 15 years without completion. This is not because it is a mega structure that needs more time but because of the lack of will and urgency from the mining companies. The Devolution Fund that is being disbursed to local councils from the central treasury has been used to try and finish the structure, but this Devolution Fund is never enough. The roads are dilapidated. The rural district council is getting a paltry RTGS$75 per tonne of granite as tax. People’s horticulture-based livelihoods have been disrupted by the extractive activities coupled with Climate Change and the pandemic.

The disbursements from the central treasury usually delay and by the time the local council receives the Devolution Fund in its bank account, the money’s value would have been eroded by inflation and this means plans would have to change as some priorities will have to be dumped since the money is no longer enough. Furthermore, the disbursements are only proportional to the population of a District and not proportional to the poverty levels of that district. Inasmuch as the central treasury continues to be the one that disburses these monies to local councils, already the spirit of devolution is crushed, and this will keep most local authorities incapacitated.

The ideal scenario will be to enable councils to collect adequate taxes from mining companies, instead of most of the taxes being paid to the central government directly. The local people have no means of following up on that money paid to central government and there is no structural arrangement that enables central government to transfer some of this money paid by mining companies to the mining host communities so that they can develop themselves and rehabilitate degraded land. This ideal situation can be a reality if the Devolution and Decentralization Policy is religiously implemented. Not only will this improve the local council’s revenue base, but it will also make it easy for local communities to ‘follow the money’ and monitor the transparency and accountability in the management of the resources. This will go a long way in curbing corruption and illicit financial flows.

Once local councils have an improved resource base, they become enabled to provide such key services as quality, affordable and accessible health, education and infrastructure resulting in local citizens realizing their Chapter 4 enshrined rights. Children in Nyamakope will not have to travel eight kilometers to access a Secondary school and the women in Kabasa A Ward 7 will now have boreholes with clean and safe water and will not have to walk 5km in search for water.

Maybe the next question is whose responsibility is it to fully and effectively implement this policy, the argument is clear “where there is a political will there is a way.”

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