WHEN the State fails to devolve its powers to the citizenry local government structures, the citizens lose their interest in what the government is doing. During the COVID-19, it has become very clear that without devolution, decisions will continue to be made by the central government for the different local government structures in Zimbabwe.
By Precious Shumba, HRT Director
Devolution means transferring decision making powers to the local tiers of government. The citizens have the right to vote and play oversight over their local government structures, with the capacity to set the priorities, draw up their budgets and holding the elected and appointed officials more accountable to the people. Decisions like where to buy water treatment chemicals should be made by the local government structures and not be determined by someone in central government.
Responsiveness to the COVID-19 outbreak should be seeing the more technical professionals from the health services sector at local level being at the forefront of devising approaches together with the citizens. Unfortunately, everything is centred around the First Lady, COVID-19 National Taskforce and a host of other Cabinet Ministers.
Local authorities like the City of Harare are struggling to get a single cent for water treatment chemicals from the Central Government as part of the national response to the water situation. Less than 30 percent of ratepayers are accessing municipal water presently. The Citizens, their Councillors and local authorities technocrats should be the ones to lead in setting up context specific lockdown regulations in order to reflect the realities on the ground in each communities.
A national -driven lockdown is more of controlling and distributing national financial and material resources by the politicians. The technocrats appear to be sidelined and starved of the necessary resources and decision-making capabilities. They are constrained. Their freedoms have been taken away.
The question is why is the national so much obsessed with controlling the purse for COVID-19 responses by local and international agencies? Is it to benefit the ordinary citizens or some senior politicians are now keen on making more money for themselves at the expense of really combating the spread of the COVID-19?
The citizens should be asking the necessary questions and having the freedoms to voice them through the limited platforms available under lockdown regulations. If they say at most 50 people must be allowed to gather during this lockdown period, this means that the citizens in their respective communities should get more organised, adhere to lockdown conditions and gather in their local communities to discuss what is genuinely affecting them.
Surely the lockdown period should not reveal the massive social inequalities between the governing and the governed. Now it appears like only the big politicians have the right to meet and plan for all while the local citizens and their local governments are significantly incapacitated to respond to the COVID-19. Rigidity in responsiveness should be ended now! Leadership must be adapting to the prevailing contexts.