Independent Zimbabwe inherited a highly centralised system of government founded and built upon racist lines. Over the past decade there has been a series of legislative enactments, directives and pronouncements which created structures and procedures facilitating the devolution of responsibility and power to lower levels of government. In fact there has been gradual progress towards the devolution of power, to accompany the substantial deconcentration of government activity which has occurred, but this review has indicated severe constraints on the extent of devolution.
The emphasis of decentralization in Zimbabwe has been on the expenditure side of government activity. The basis of the system lies in a complex, participatory planning exercise, which is supposed to emerge in a truly bottom-up fashion. In fact however all the local effort and thinking about development needs often ends up being literally shelved, in the offices of the Ministry of Local Government in Harare. It is generally acknowledged that any connection between the Provincial, let alone District, Development Plan and actual public expenditure is weak and indirect. We found that this situation is compounded by a range of factors, from the local "shopping lists" to the approaches adopted by sectoral ministries, but that it is fundamentally due to the very centralised system of public finance.
Increasing recognition of this basic defect has led to some improvements in the system. Sectoral ministries have been specifically requested to take Provincial Development Plans into account in making their bids in the PSIP. Some districts and provinces have begun to re-orientate their efforts towards the formulation of Strategic and Rolling Plans which are both more sophisticated and realistic than the Development Plans to date. Further changes are required if the decentralised system is to operate as envisaged.
The District councils have some finance of their own (through limited powers to raise fees etc.), but receive the majority of their finance from the central government. The money they receive is strictly tied to specific purposes, leaving them very little leeway over expenditure decisions. They are even limited in what they can spend their "own" finance on.
The optimum solution would be some meaningful financial decentralization (Conyers and Mellors 1989). This would preferably focus on the District Councils, and could take the form of block grants, shared taxes and/or increasing local taxation powers. The Commission of Enquiry into Taxation recommended revenue sharing, in which the Districts would receive part of the excise tax on beer and the whole of the motor vehicle tax, distributed according to some criteria of need. The evidence suggests that there exists substantial untapped revenue potential in the Communal Lands, particularly in those areas which have experienced large increases in marketed agricultural output which could be tapped through crop taxes or land taxes. Experience in the Midlands has also demonstrated the capacity of District Council to use block grants in a competent and constructive manner, and that the availability of local finance can make development planning a much more fruitful exercise. Increased revenue could be accompanied by a larger role for District Councils in the provision of local social and economic services.
Another important improvement lies in the extension of the present planning process, so that policy guidelines and financial ceilings are given to the districts in order to enable more realistic and effective inputs into the national budget process. Further, sectoral ministries should be required, under some legal mandate, to show that local submissions have been taken into account.
The government is considering the provision of block grants to the provincial level. In our view, this is not the appropriate level partly because the PCs are not directly elected and the Provincial governors are appointed centrally, and partly because they cover too large an area to permit effective local participation.
High priority is accorded to the social sectors by both central and local levels of government in Zimbabwe, but the evidence suggests that local decision makers place a relatively larger emphasis on the provision of basic social services, especially schools and clinics. Local authorities also place high priority on safe drinking water. Generally, District Councils give greater priority to the provision of basic economic infrastructure to promote increased agricultural production as compared with the CG. Devolution of financial powers could be expected to raise the economic infrastructure ratio, leaving the social allocation ratio broadly unchanged, but raising the share of basic social services within this. But it must be acknowledged that these conclusions are based on evidence of choices made in severely constrained conditions.
The spatial distribution of central government expenditure has tended to be regressive across provinces, with provinces with higher per capita income (and lower needs) receiving more expenditure. Similarly within a sample of district councils, both local revenue grants and central government grants were distributed inversely with needs. The only need-oriented distribution was the DDF for 1981/2.
There are some constraints on the extent of broad-based political participation in Zimbabwe. The ineffectiveness of much local planning has discouraged local participation. The dominance of a single party, reinforced by the absence of a secret ballot, is evidently not conducive to freedom of choice and also weakens devolution, in so far as the party is subject to central control. In the result, disillusion has developed with respect to the structures of local government, and the utility of local participation, especially in planning. The national government's commitment to promoting full participation is in question, as indicated by the provisions of the Rural District Council Act which deliberately exclude the majority of people in former rural council areas from voting through a limited property-based franchise. The proposal to give more finance to the less democratic and more controlled provincial level, rather than the DCs is another indication of weak government support for devolution.
Genuine devolution of decision-making powers to local people not only requires financial decentralization, but also that local decision-makers are not constrained by the dominant presence of a centrally controlled political party. Democratic structures and secret ballots are needed to avoid undue dominance by local elites.
Zimbabwe has taken the first steps towards devolution - the establishment of democratic structures in the District councils (although not in the Rural Councils areas). But the other conditions for devolution have not yet been realised.
Finally, it must be re-emphasised that a decade is indeed a short period within which to implement a shift towards a thoroughgoing decentralization of decision making power in government, especially as the decade was also one of nation building. There have certainly been some significant achievements to date; some of the shortcomings we have noted have been recognised, and some changes made in response. At present the delays which have been encountered in amalgamation of councils in the rural areas are holding up further progress. It is hoped that this issue as well as the need for financial decentralization will be resolved as soon as possible.
|Functions||City Councils||Municipal Councils||Other Urban||Rural Councils||District councils|
|Clinics and Maternity||L||L||L||L||l|
|Parks & playgrds.||L||L||L||l||-|
Brand, C. (1991) Will decentralization enhance local participation? in Helmsing et al (1991).
Central Statistical Office (1989) Provincial population Data Sheets.
---------------- (1990) Comparative tables: District population indicators and information for development planning (various).
Child, B. and Peterson, J. (1991) CAMPFIRE in rural development The Beitbridge Experience. Joint Working Paper series, Branch of Terrestrial Ecology and Centre for Applied Social Sciences, UZ.
Cokorinos, L. (1984) The political economy of state and party formation in Zimbabwe, in Schatzberg (op cit).
Conyers, D. and Mellors, R. (1989) Review of the provincial and district planning system, Background paper, Kwekwe workshop.
De Valk,P. and Wekwete,K.H. (ed.) (1990) Decentralising for participatory
planning? Avebury: Aldershot.
-------------- Challenges for local government in Zimbabwe. in De Valk and Wekwete (op. cit).
De Valk, P. (1990) An analysis of planning policy with reference to Zimbebwe. in De Valk and Wekwete (op. cit).
Dzinoreva, M. (1992) Experiences at the district level. Presentation on decentralised district development, The Sheraton Hotel, Harare, April 15.
Gasper, D. (1991) Decentralisation of planning and administration in
Zimbabwe International perspectives and 1980s experiences, in Helmsing
et al (1991)
----------- (1989) Growth points and rural industries: ideologies and policies. RUP Occasional paper No.18. University of Zimbabwe.
Government of Zimbabwe (1988) First Five Year Development Plan 1986-90,
-------------- (1990) National Income and Expenditure Report. Central Statistical Office
-------------- (1990) Intercensal Demographic Survey. CSO.
-------------- (1990) Guidelines for provincial planning. National Planning Agency, MFEPD.
--------------- MLGRUD and ODA (1990) Provincial Development Support Programme Project Framework.
--------------- (1988) Workshop on regional development Planning: targets and reality. Protocol of proceedings of parliamentary workshop
---------------- Provincial Development Plans (various)
-----------------District Development Plans (various)
Helmsing, A.H.J. et al (1991) Limits to decentralisation in Zimbabwe.
ISS, The Hague. ------(1991) Rural local government finance. Past trends
future options. in Helmsing (1991).
------- and Wekwete, K. (1987) Financing district councils Local taxes and central allocations. RUP Occasional Paper No.9, University of Zimbabwe.
--------- (1987) Non-agricultural enterprise in the communal lands of Zimbabwe. RUP Occasional Paper No.10, University of Zimbabwe.
----------(1986) Rural industries and growth points Issues in an ongoing policy debate in Zimbabwe. RUP Occasional Paper No.2. UZ.
Herbst, J (1990) State politics in Zimbabwe. University of Zimbabwe Publications: Harare. Chapter 8.
International Monetary Fund 1990 Government Financial Statistics Yearbook, volume XIV
Jackson, J.C. and Collier, P. (1991) Incomes, poverty and food security in the communal lands of Zimbabwe, in Mutizwa-Mangiza and Helmsing (1991).
Mahlaba, H. (1992) Introduction to the Midlands provincial and district teams. Presentation on decentralised district development, The Sheraton Hotel, Harare, April 15.
Ministry of Community and cooperative Development (1991) Report on the evaluation of the effectiveness of the Village Community Worker Training Programme. July.
Moyo, J. (1989) Local Government in Sub Saharan Africa. EDI Seminar, World Bank, Washington D.C.
Mudenge, C. (1992) Experiences at the district level - Mbewegwa. Presentation on decentralised district development, The Sheraton Hotel, Harare, 1992.
Murphree, M.W. (1991) Communities as institutions for resource development. Paper presented in Maputo, Mocambique, 7/10/91.
Mutizwa-Mangiza, N.D. (1992) Rural local government finance in Zimbabwe:
the case of Gokwe City Council. Public Administration and Development,
------------------ (1990) Decentralisation and district development planning in Zimbabwe. Public Administration and Development p.419-435.
--------------- (1991) Decentralisation and local government administration An analysis of structural and planning problems at the rural district level, in Helmsing et al (1991).
---------------- and Helmsing, A.H.J. (ed.) (1991) Rural development and planning in Zimababwe. Gower Publishing: Aldershot.
---------------- (1985) Community development in pre-independence Zimbabwe. Supplement to ZAMBEZIA, 1985.
Olowu, D. and Smoke, P. (1992) Determinants of success in African local governments: an overview. Public Administration and Development, Vol. 12, No.1.
Patel, D. (1984) Housing the urban poor in the socialist transformation of Zimbabwe, in Schatzberg (op cit).
Schatzberg, M. (1984) The political Economy of Zimbabwe Praeger Publishers, New York, N.Y.
Stoneman, C. and Cliffe, L. (1989) Zimbabwe. Politics, Economics and Society. Pinter Publishers: London and New York.
Wekwete, K. (1992) Urban local government finance in Zimbabwe: the case
of Harare City Council. Public Administration and Development, Vol. 12,
----------- (1991) Decentralised planning in Zimbabwe. A review of provincial, urban and district level planning, in Helmsing et al (1991).
----------- (1989) Planning laws for urban and regional planning in Zimbabwe - a review. RUP Occasional paper no.20. UZ.
Williams, G. (1982) Equity, growth and the state. Africa 52(3) (Review of the Riddell Report).
World Bank (1991a) Agricultural Sector Memorandum, vol 3, annexes, Report
------------ (1991b) Women in the informal sector
------------ (1990) Issues in the financing of health services, Report #8100-ZIM
------------ (1988) World Development Report
ZIDS (1989) An evaluation of agricultural extension services support to women farmers in Zimbabwe with special reference to Makondi district. Moyo, S. (et al).