Devolution is constitutionally entrenched decentralization, so that authority and capacity is not given and taken at the whim of some remote center of power, the national capital city, in this case Harare. Devolution entails distribution of power such that other tiers of government below the state (provinces to be precise) can make meaningful decisions on the priorities and means of their implementation without reference to some remote authority. Such decisions include the power to make relevant laws and regulations and the mechanisms to ensure compliance with and enforcement of those decisions in the framework of state-wide guiding principles and common goals.
As a general rule, the tendency is that when you concentrate power in the centre the periphery usually suffers deprivation. In our case Mutare, Masvingo, Gweru, Bulawayo and the provinces they are located in have suffered at the hands of too powerful a center, Harare and its immediate provinces. New investment and relocation of industries gravitate to where decisions and vibrant markets reside, leading to growth of ghost towns and skewed provincial development. Such “marginalization” of outlying areas can be exacerbated if cronyism, nepotism and discrimination become pervasive factors in determining access to employment and facilitation of self-employment, as well as access to and control of local resources.
ZAPU has proposed that the country should have devolution of power based on five provinces: Mashonaland, Manicaland, Masvingo, Matebeleland and Midlands. These provinces make sense in that they largely coincide with elements of pre-colonial history, natural eco-regions, cultural realities and economic viability. The fear that devolution will introduce “tribalism” is due partly to a hangover from colonial prejudice and denigration of identities below the territorial government and its “national” ideological superstructure. The trivialization of our languages, traditions and nationalities alternated with colonial “divide and rule” strategies that exaggerated and exploited differences. Therefore concentration of state power at the center is not the same thing as national unity. Indeed there are many regimes around the world that have managed to retain control without legitimate claims to national cohesion and national unity.
The colonial state of Rhodesia was based on keeping political and economic power exclusively in the hands of people of European origin, giving authority (indirect rule) and reducing that capacity (through central control) as they saw fit. ZAPU was formed to unite the politically oppressed, economically exploited, culturally denigrated and statutorily discriminated and repressed majority of the people to fight for a democratic order with equal rights for all. This “unity in diversity” was based on common interest and tangible goals of a free society. The fight for freedom and independence was not an end in itself. It was definitely not to retain a repressive state order but to bring responsive and accessible government. Given our post-independence experience, it is clear that these founding principles can only be achieved through devolution of power to the provinces.
Will ZAPU survive, given its current resource constraints?
When it pulled out of ZANU-PF and reconnected with its other members scattered across the political divide, ZAPU had its brand name and hardly any resources to start its operations. The party has therefore relied on the commitment of its members and very little else from well-wishers. This situation is likely to continue for the foreseeable future because ZAPU cannot tap state-related resources nor expect indirect support from donors like the other major parties. Right from the first years of Zimbabwe’s independence ZAPU properties (and even those of ex-combatants of the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army – ZPRA), were confiscated under trumped-up accusations of planning the overthrow of the state. If these properties were returned there is no question that ZAPU would be self-sufficient and would not need to struggle to rent offices commercially.