The Politics of Devolution


I was delighted when I woke up on the morning of 7 March 2019 to the news that President Mnangagwa- the first Secretary of ZANU-PF- had dissolved the party’s Harare Province structures with immediate effect, including the women and youth leagues.


President Mnangagwa also dissolved Bulawayo Province.


However, Harare province was of particular interest to me for the following reasons:


Firstly, it is no secret that during the 2018 harmonized elections, ZANU-PF (and consequently President Emmerson Mnangagwa) suffered the biggest loss in Harare Province.


This is because of power-hungry and unscrupulous individuals in ZANU-PF’s Harare province youth and women’s leagues.


This individuals caused great disunity and discontent as they went around the province and secretly purged party members who they perceived to be threats to their political ambitions at cell, branch and district structures in the build up to the 2018 harmonized elections.


My estimates are that as a result of the purges instituted by those sellouts, ZANU-PF lost at approximately 300 000 votes in Harare province alone to apathy, protest and disgruntlement.


Pasi nema sellout.


I argued in 2018 and will state again here that the secret machinations of those power-hungry individuals in Harare province flew in the face of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s calls for unity at the December 2017 Extraordinary Congress where he stated the following:


“My presidency is about a united ZANU-PF, a national party with a national outlook… let us reassert discipline, order and harmony in the party, and put behind us victimization and witch-hunting of the past.”


Had the leadership of the youth and women’s leagues in Harare Province headed that call and campaigned in 2018 in the spirit of unity, then undoubtedly President Mnangagwa would have won the elections convincingly.


Nevertheless, the dissolution of Harare province provides two unique opportunities for ZANU-PF.


The first is the opportunity to purge the ghost of factionalism from the structures of the party.


In fact, when the party begins its restructuring processes, the name-calling of the past should be completely done away with.


There should be no labeling of individuals as “gamatox” or “G-40” or “La-Coste” or anything else.


Simply put, such labelling begets witch-hunting and persecutions, and as the Harare Province 2018 electoral result demonstrated, such chicanery is politically counter-productive, and goes directly against President Mnangagwa’s calls for unity in party structures.


Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, the dissolution of ZANU-PF Harare province’s structures brings to the fore a unique opportunity for the party in the context of devolution.


In its 2019 budget, government set aside $310 million to facilitate the process of devolution in the country in fulfilment of pledges that President Emmerson Mnangagwa made before the 2018 elections.


This sizeable financial allocation seeks to operationalize support to provinces in terms of Section 264 of the Constitution.


Furthermore the $310 million in fiscal transfers is earmarked for support to Provincial Councils for 2019- as spelt out in the Transitional Stabilization Programme, where decentralization is a key strategy for fair and just governance.


Yet, there is also a political angle to devolution that ZANU-PF cannot ignore.


Perhaps I can spell it out like this: the 2018 Zimbabwean elections were unique and distinguishable from past elections in that firstly, Zimbabwe-based citizens of foreign descent, commonly referred to as “aliens”, were allowed to vote.


Secondly, in the 2018 elections ZEC allowed for citizens to register as voters from anywhere in the country as long as they could present any documentation showing their residential address.


These two factors have a direct impact to ZANU-PF’s politics concerning Harare (and to a lesser extent Bulawayo) provinces, as these two metropolitan provinces are cosmopolitan, and melting pots for Zimbabweans from all regions in the country.


This inspires the question: What does devolution mean for Harare Province? Does a Zimbabwean citizen who resides and works in Harare but has roots in Manicaland for instance, qualify to benefit twice from devolution- in Harare where he or she lives as well as in Manicaland where he or she is from?


To clearly answer such questions, and to come up with a clear strategy with respect to the politics of devolution going forward, it’s extremely important for ZANU-PF to sponsor a detailed and in-depth empirical research among its Harare and Bulawayo province members which addresses such questions.


The reason is simply because most of the 500 000 people who voted for the opposition in Harare province in 2018 are people who are below 40 and who migrated into Harare province over the last two decades, but still have roots in other provinces.


Put plainly, most of the MDC-Alliance supporters in Harare are not originally from Harare… or are they?


It is my assumption that Harare is currently overpopulated as a result of rural-urban migration.


The problems that Harare has with service delivery, Cholera, Typhoid, vendors, crime, addiction and other social ills that we are experiencing are not the simply fault of our central government or “legitimacy” as the opposition likes to loosely state.


Those problems are in fact the culmination of years of rural-urban migration which has seen large numbers of people migrate into Harare with unrealistic hopes and impractical dreams.


When they arrive in Harare they find that their aspirations for work and a better life are dashed, as Harare is already overstretched in terms of infrastructure and overpopulated.


As it stands Harare has a population of approximately 1.56 million people, while the next largest city is Bulawayo which has a population of 703,000.


Ironically Harare’s infrastructure is meant for 500 000-750 000 people.


Nevertheless, it’s clear that these two cities have enough people to determine the outcome of a critical election… especially if anyone within them who is eligible is allowed to vote- alien and all.


In this context, it is important for ZANU-PF to conduct empirical research on devolution within its own structures. This research which will serve as a pilot or preamble perhaps for the greater devolution project.


This is an opportune time for such research to be conducted among ZANU-PF members in Harare and Bulawayo provinces.


The key questions (among others) that to be addressed in that study would be: How should devolution be addressed with respect to Harare province? Who should benefit from devolution in Harare? Should voters who are not registered in Harare be allowed to benefit from devolution in the province?


Ultimately, it cannot be ignored that devolution has a direct impact to our politics and the 2023 elections.


In that light, it’s beneficial for the party to grab the opportunity provided by the dissolution of Harare and Bulawayo provinces to conduct devolution research.


Tau Tawengwa


Executive Director