ZIMBABWE – But ruling party supporters have dismissed such suggestions as wishful thinking.
Speaking in Bulawayo at a conference to audit the country’s devolution process Dr. Themba Dlodlo, a physics lecturer, said Zimbabwe is in a crisis as a result of the incompetence of a government in which too much power is vested in one person.
Dr. Dlodlo, who is also a politician, asserted that Zimbabwe is under a dictatorship and its possible collapse as a result of the infighting within the ruling Zanu PF, as well as an insistent economic crisis, could result in prolonged civil war like what has happened in the aftermath of the collapse of totalitarian regimes in countries like the then Zaire, Somalia, Libya and others.
He said there is need for devolution of power and services in order to ensure that more people are involved in making decisions that directly affect them.
“Our fear today in Zimbabwe, with the confusion in the ruling party, is that we have watched the collapse of some dictatorships in Africa in particular, and whenever a dictatorship collapses there is a civil war. If you remember in Somalia, (President) Siad Barre fled to West Africa and Somalia is still in a state of civil war.
“If you look at DRC after dictator Mobutu left there is still violent conflict there. Look at Sierra Leone, look at Liberia, look at Libya: every time a dictator goes there is a civil war. We have a dictatorship here and I hope that this is not going to be the case for our country.”
ZANU PF REACTION
Reached for comment on Dlodlo’s statement, Mpopoma/Pelandaba House of Assembly member Joseph Tshuma told Studio 7 over the phone that Zimbabweans are an educated and peace-loving people and would not engage in civil war.
Tshuma, who is also a Zanu PF Central Committee member said the infighting in the ruling party is exaggerated, adding that some senior leaders who are reported to be jostling to succeed President Robert Mugabe have repeatedly stated their loyalty to both the party and the president.
Tshuma said the Zanu PF government is committed to devolution as well as implementing all provisions of the new constitution, He noted that lack of financial resources has been the major hindrance.
In a presentation on devolution and natural resource governance, one of the panelists at the conference Gracious Maviza said decentralization averts the possibility of conflict over natural resources as it helps locals to also get direct benefit from them.
There has been concern by some locals over the mining of diamonds in Manicaland province’s Marange area, with many of them charging that they have not profited from the exercise.
Citing an example of the war waged by Nigeria’s Ogoni ethnic group against transnational oil companies in the Niger Delta, Maviza said where locals do not enjoy any benefit from natural resources in their vicinity, there is bound to be conflict.
“In relation to the issue of violent conflict we are saying with devolution we are basically having a content local populace because there is transparency about what is happening in terms of the proceeds or revenues from the natural resources that are there.
“And as a result people are not going to take to violent conflict but they are rather going to be good stewards of the environment so that they can benefit more from the revenue that comes from the natural resources.”
While acknowledging that devolution is important in governance and that government has been slow in implementing it as enshrined in the country’s new constitution, lawyer and human rights advocate, Teresa Mugadza, said it would be wrong to single it out without pushing for the full enactment of the constitution as a whole.
Mugadza noted that after the zeal shown during the constitution making process, there now appears to be lethargy on the part of ordinary Zimbabweans and civic organisations in driving government to expedite the implementation of the constitution, adding that all citizens have a responsibility in making it a reality.
“Devolution is important to the extent that we are talking about devolution of resources, of decision making and citizen participation at a local level. That is very important, and what we have seen with delays in implementing the constitution is that there have also been delays in implementing devolution at the local and regional levels.
“When you are operating at the local level you have a closer relationship with citizens and they are able to see what administrative challenges or what glitches exist in any system. So I believe it is important to begin to talk about implementation of the constitution broadly, and specifically devolution.”
Director Samukele Hadebe of the Public Policy Research Institute of Zimbabwe, a Bulawayo based think-tank which convened the devolution audit conference, said the main aim was to gather ideas on how the implementation of the concept can be accelerated and how it can be made operational to the satisfaction of the ordinary majority.