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


Factional politics in Zimbabwe


A bureaucracy is a large organization that is designed to achieve goals through hierarchical organization. Bureaucracies are designed according to rational principles, which are set in order to efficiently attain goals. Bureaucratic offices are ranked in a hierarchical order, with information flowing up the chain of command and directives flowing down.

The bureaucracy of an efficient political party, for instance, is designed in such a way that information from the grassroots’ structures flows up the chain of command without interruption, and accordingly directives flow back down.

Now, according to social theorists, in order for a bureaucracy to function at optimal efficiency it must have the following innate characteristics:

● Division of labor. This means that each person’s job is specifically broken down into routine and well-defined tasks. In a political party, this means that the function of each office is specifically defined, and that redundant offices are discontinued, as were the District Coordinating Committees (DCC’s) in Zanu-PF.

● Well-defined authority hierarchy. In other words: a multilevel formal structure, with a hierarchy of positions or offices, which ensures that each lower office is under the supervision and control of a higher one. Ultimately, this means that there is no ambiguity or overlapping of positions. In Zimbabwean politics for instance, this would mean that the role of a provincial chairperson and that of a politburo member within the same province are clearly set out in order to avoid ambiguity.

● High formalization, that is, an acceptance of formal rules and procedures to ensure uniformity and to regulate the behavior of office-bearers. Such formalization within a political party occurs in the form of a constitution, which should be applied to the letter in order to ensure optimum efficiency.

● Impersonal nature. This means that rules and controls are applieduniformly while avoiding preferential treatment of political personalities and office-bearers. In other words, the constitution of the organization is applied to the letter without favouring personalities or factions.



● Appointment decisions are based on merit. In a political party, this means that the selection and promotion of office bearers is based on exceptional technical qualifications, political competence and performance, and not simply for instance, factional, regional or racial classifications.

●Distinct separation of members’ organizational and personal lives. In other words, the demands and interests of personal affairs are kept completely separate to prevent them form interfering with rational impersonal conduct of the organization’s activities.

Now, in recent weeks the Zimbabwean media has been awash with reports of political infighting in ZANU-PF on the basis of factional politics. For those who are unaware, a political faction refers to a number of persons in an organization who form a party within a political party, which is seeking to further its own ends, usually in opposition to the ends and aims of the main body or leadership of the party; a clique.

While political scientists argue that political factions can be either cooperative, competitive or degenerative, it is a widely held view that factionalism leads to the disintegration of party cohesion, and ultimately the diminishing of the six aforementioned characteristics of an efficient bureaucracy.

As a result, where factionalism occurs, a party that previously had a Well-defined authority hierarchy finds that lower ranking party officials might openly attack senior party office bearers on the basis that the impersonal nature of the bureaucracy has been substituted by preferential treatment of party members based upon factional allegiance.

For instance, the Zanu-PF Harare province youth chairperson recently unashamedly and openly chastised senior members of Zanu-PF’s Harare leadership. It remains to be seen whether the party will throw the book at him as required in a highly formalized bureaucracy.

Unfortunately, the depressed economic environment encourages vote buying. To such an extent that party members in the lower structures openly solicit vote-money from factional bidders, meaning that elections within party structures are engineered and therefore do not represent a true reflection of grassroots’ sentiment. As a result, where information from grassroots’ structures used to flow up the chain of command without interruption, it is now thwarted by factional fissures, and this leads to the misinformation of the party leadership and again, it diminishes the efficacy of the political party.

Ultimately, the best way to thwart factionalism is to resurrect the constitution of a political party, and after making necessary adaptations, to ensure that it is followed to the letter. As it stands in the case of Zanu-PF for instance, it would seem that the constitutional means of conducting party affairs have been substituted by factional by-laws.

Tau Tawengwa

Executive Director

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Kleptocracy is a term that is applied when describing a state in which high-ranking officials take advantage of governmental corruption to extend their personal wealth and/or political power fundamentally through the embezzlement of state funds at the expense of the wider population, sometimes without even the pretense of honest service.

The characteristics of a kleptocracy are:

The elite in society utilize political power to enrich themselves at the expense of wider social services and the general well-being of citizens.

Political power is condensed so that an elite holds the majority of the control over government.

Programs which benefit those who are not elite are subverted in order to increase the amount of money available to be shifted to the elite.

Institutions of the state squash dissent from the status-quo.

The ongoing salary-gate saga (an exposé of state entity bosses who have been awarding themselves ludicrous salaries that run into tens of thousands of American dollars per month in Zimbabwe; the second poorest country in the world) has raised questions about the maladmistration of state institutions in the country and the sincerity of government when it comes to tackling graft.

While I would not define Zimbabwe as an absolute kleptocracy as were Mobutu Sese Seko’s Congo or Sani Abacha’s Nigeria, my concern is that the country faces the danger of descending into the clutches of complete kleptomania if corruption is not urgently addressed.

But the question is how did we get here? How did we get to a point where a C.E.O of a medical aid society earns some USD $250, 000 per month while the members who contribute monthly to that society cannot access basic medical services?

In a work entitled “Re-Living the Second Chimurenga” Fay Chung, a Zimbabwe liberation war activist and a former minister of Education argues, “Structural Adjustment saw the entry of new leaders into ZANU-PF.

“These leaders had not taken part in the difficult pre-independence liberation struggle of the 1960s and 1970s, but had joined the ruling party after it got into power in order to promote their business prospects, which remained closely linked to political patronage.

“Known as the mafikizolo, or newly arrived, they integrated themselves into the party leadership.

“Thus by the 1990s, the new leadership within ZANU-PF began to outnumber those who had been in the liberation struggle. These new leaders became millionaires and billionaires through their political connections. They, like the wealthy whites before them, tended to expatriate their wealth, rather than investing inside the country.”

Now, ZANU-PF held its 14th National People’s Conference from 10th – 14th December 2013 under the theme, “ZIM ASSET: Growing the Economy for Empowerment and Employment”.

Some of the notable resolutions that emerged at the conference were:

to instruct the government to ensure that food relief is available and reaches the vulnerable and needy communities throughout the country

to urge the government to improve the living standards of the citizenry for an empowered society and a growing economy

that both the party and the government should implement zero tolerance against corruption in all spheres of public and private life.

Based upon these resolutions, kudos to Professor Jonathan Moyo, The Minister of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services who unilaterally spearheaded that salary-gate exposé. The fact is that Zimbabwe has for too long blamed hostile external factors for its internal problems.

In fact the salary-gate revelations have exposed the self-sanctioned profligacy within non-performing public service providers where various executives have been earning amounts ranging between USD$30, 000 and USD$250, 000 per month.

Put plainly, the salary-gate scandal has effectually buried the sanctions mantra forever- no one will believe it again, especially not when we, the youth, who constitute between 60 and 70 percent of the population are out of work, and are consequently succumbing to social ills like substance addiction and promiscuity.

In case you did not know, Harare has become a hub of multi-racial brothels, Class A drug trafficking, strip clubs and crime – the social effects of unemployment in the country. Those of us who cared to, voted in favour of economic growth and employment, and that is what we expect.

Exposing the kleptomaniac tendencies of the state is a good start that should be reinforced by transparency and accountability mechanisms within government entities in order to strengthen these institutions and as a result, to attract much needed funding.

Tau Tawengwa

Secretary General


Zimbabwe Elections 2013- Why they won’t form a coalition

zimraysProfessor Welshman Ncube, the presidential candidate and the leader of the smaller MDC party in Zimbabwe has launched his election manifesto and has unveiled a policy document entitled “Actions for Devolution.”

Simply put, devolution of power refers to the transfer of power from a central government to local units.

In the Zimbabwean electoral context, Professor Welshman Ncube’s MDC party is campaigning for the decentralization of power and consequently, for the opportunity to give all the regions in Zimbabwe the self-determining authority to make developmental decisions.

Now, with the national harmonized election days away, a key question is whether or not Professor Welshman Ncube’s MDC will form a last-minute grand coalition with Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC-T.

Although many opinions have been put forward concerning this issue, political analysts and commentators have however failed to recognize that this proposed coalition is a doubled-edged sword for both Tsvangirai and Ncube. As a result let me take the opportunity to unequivocally observe that this coalition will not be formed, for the following reasons:

•    Firstly, according to the MDC-T’s election manifesto the MDC-T
“is a social democratic party committed to serving all citizens….”
Conversely, the MDC led by professor Welshman Ncube has centered its campaign on the theme of devolution of power which, unlike the MDC-T’s position to serve “all” citizens, does not apply to citizens as a cohesive collective, but rather as separate groups. Furthermore, devolution of power as a political theme has internationally proven to be disorderly, divisive and in some instances deadly; the 27 year-long civil war in Sri Lanka is an example. Ultimately, there is a fundamental ideological rift between the two parties.

•    Now, bearing in mind that MDC-N is a party that principally draws legitimacy from the Bulawayo and Matabeleland provinces (provinces that largely feel as though they have been historically sidelined by the state in terms of infrastructure development and industrialization), if Professor Welshman Ncube forms a coalition with the MDC-T, his support base will perceive this as desertion and consequently the MDC-N will lose their supporters in the Bulawayo and Matabeleland regions.

•    Finally, the MDC-T seems to be desirous of this coalition on the maudlin basis that a united front with the MDC-N will dislodge ZANU-PF from power. Nevertheless, there is no guarantee that this coalition will see to the end of ZANU-PF. In fact most research studies suggest that ZANU-PF will convincingly win the harmonized election, with or without the MDC coalition. It is therefore clear that for the MDC-N to sacrifice its political relevance in favor of a political union with a party that is ideologically distant, and on a basis that is not empirically justified, it would result in nothing short of political suicide.

Tau Tawengwa

Executive Director