Local Government, Decentralisation, Devolution, and Service Delivery in Zimbabwe

Local Government, Decentralisation, Devolution, and Service Delivery in Zimbabwe

Tawanda Zinyama (University of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe)
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3479-3.ch109

Abstract

Zimbabwe is one of only a handful of countries in sub-Saharan Africa that have taken part in the wave of decentralisation and devolution. The process differs from the efforts of the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s in that this time the government of Zimbabwe seems ready to cede real power to the lower levels. It is also taking place alongside broad economic and political reforms. Devolution of power is enshrined in Zimbabwe's 2013 Constitution as one of the country's founding values and principles. However, as was the case with in the 2000s, it is sometimes easy to romanticise about the benefits of devolution, thus, fail to take into account the detailed work required before it benefits people at the local level. The devolved administrations exercise considerable autonomy when it comes to tackling poverty: for instance, major areas of economic development, education, health, and housing policy are the responsibility of the devolved institutions. Moreover, the devolved bodies have complete autonomy over how they allocate their budgets.
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Background And Conceptual Framework

Decentralization and Devolution

Interest group politics suggest that politicians at the center have little wish to cede their vast powers, notably those over public finances, to the local level. They embark on meaningful local reforms, including decentralization and devolution, only when they sense authentic benefits to themselves and their political supporters from incorporating the local government into the mainstream political process, for example, when this gives them a political advantage over their competitors at the center or when, to generate welfare-enhancing growth, create broader markets (Zinyama, 2019; Chigwata, 2018) for urban-based industries or support the agricultural activities of the elite, it becomes necessary to liberalize the economy as well as domestic politics.

Decentralization is a generic term for the diffusion of governmental authority and power away from the national center to other institutions at other levels of government or levels of administration (Moyo and Ncube, 2014). Devolution is generally classified as the most extensive form of decentralization that diffuses substantial governmental powers, authority, responsibilities and resources to local units. Such units exercise a measure of autonomy, which is “the extent to which local governments have discretion in carrying out their duties and obligations” (Masunungure and Ndoma, 2013; Chigwata, 2019). However, such autonomy cannot be equated to the independence enjoyed by a sovereign State, given that local units exercising devolved powers are not at par with the central government. Unlike federal systems where the regions or provinces maintain their own independent power and cede or receive some authority to or from the federal government, devolved units do not occupy the same sort of position in relation to the central government (Chigwata, 2019). The dimensions of devolution include centralization, administrative, fiscal, political, delegation and deconcentration (Barnett, et al. 1977; Poverty Reduction Forum Trust, 2019). Devolution aims to create local governments that are independent, autonomous and usually have exclusive authority over explicitly defined functions. Political autonomy is meaningless if it is not accompanied by fiscal autonomy, which entails the ability to raise and spend revenue (Moyo, 2013; Chigwata, 2018).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Service Delivery: Socio-economic provision of goods and services such as roads, schools, and hospitals.

local government: System of government closest to the people.

Devolution: The extensive form of decentralization that diffuses substantial governmental powers, authority, responsibilities, and resources to local units.

Decentralization: The diffusion of governmental authority and power away from the national center to other institutions at other levels of government or levels of administration

Section Autonomy: The extent to which local governments have discretion in carrying out their duties and obligations.

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