Push devolution agenda: President
Farirai Machivenyika Senior Reporter
Local authorities need to scale up their commitment to improving the quality of life by joining central Government in the implementation of the devolution and decentralisation agenda, empowering communities and ensuring equitable distribution of resources, President Mnangagwa said yesterday.
Opening the second Local Authorities’ Councillors and Staff Indaba in Harare, the President stressed the critical role urban and rural local councils had to play in empowering communities at the grassroots and ensuring that the development they wanted was delivered.
The local authorities had to play a major role in practical development of the country.
The indaba was held under the theme: “Strengthening local governance through devolution for the attainment of Vision 2030.”
This, the President described as timely as it highlighted the critical role of local authorities in the realisation of the country’s development aspirations.
“The devolution and decentralisation agenda being championed by my administration is entrenching participatory democracy by ensuring that resources, powers and functions are given to communities at the grassroots level,” he said.
“In this regard, local authorities are indispensable partners which must provide timely programmes and projects to guarantee equitable development that leaves no one and no place behind. I therefore urge you, as stakeholders in this tier of Government, to scale up your commitment to improving the quality of lives of the citizenry through the provision of quality services.
“The broad mandates you have been given in our national constitution, enabling legislation and other policies, should translate into a higher quality of life for our people.”
As the Government scaled up the implementation of the devolution agenda, local authorities had added responsibilities with Government adopting a comprehensive devolution and decentralisation policy to guide the process, while removing gaps and ambiguities.
Under the new policy, local authorities would be further empowered manage affairs efficiently and effectively within their jurisdiction, and with Government ministries, departments and agencies directed to provide local authorities with the required support.
“This must see greater collaboration and synergies which promote the ongoing rural development and industrialisation agenda. There is no us and them. Let us all work together, across the public service, for the good of our people.
“Additionally, local authorities should prioritise the creation of a conducive and an enabling business operating environment, right at the community level,” President Mnangagwa said.
Under the reforms for the ease of doing business, the adoption of global best practices was set to consolidate the country’s economic growth and enhance its attractiveness as a favourable investment destination.
The on-going reforms, President Mnangagwa said, also took into account the demands to strengthen the local government sector and empower citizens to participate fully in development initiatives at both the national and local levels.
“In this regard, the participation of women and the youth, in political and development processes, is receiving due attention for the realisation of sustainable broad-based empowerment and socio-economic development.
“In this quest, my Government has set a 30 percent women’s quota in local government. It is the women who endure the burden of poor services by the local authorities, particularly in urban areas.
“I, therefore, call upon women from across the country to seize this opportunity to advance the interests of women, the youth and children in both the governance and development space of our country, beginning at the community level.”
President Mnangagwa added that the ongoing efforts under the Second Republic to accelerate the realisation of Vision 2030 demanded that public officials be patriotic and prudent public administrators.
“In keeping with the culture of my administration, public officials are servants of the people of Zimbabwe and must exhibit a greater sense of commitment to wholeheartedly serve our nation,” he said.
While acknowledging the notable improvement in the manner in which some local authorities are being run, President Mnangagwa criticised those hogging the limelight for the wrong reasons.
“Greater efforts should be made to expunge corruption from within your rank and file, both at political and management levels. The law will continue to take its course without fear or favour against those found on the wrong side,” he added.
As part of measures to reform the administrative model of the local government sector, a performance-based management system had been adopted. This had seen both council chairpersons and officials sign performance contracts as one of many strategies to entrench accountability and transparency across the public sector.
The President commended those local authorities who had engaged in voluntary local reviews to foster values, policies and standards that help strengthen their capacity to execute their mandates and function.
“On local governance financing, my Government has actualised the inter-governmental fiscal transfer system, and is progressively moving towards surpassing the 5 percent set target by 2030. Over and above this measure, as councils you must be proactive, innovative and embark on legal commercial ventures to broaden your revenue streams.
“These must leverage on the resource endowments within your communities as well as comparative advantages. More efforts must be made to attract productive investments at your local level.”
He said work must be speeded up on the long awaited amendments to the legislation governing urban and rural local authorities as well as the regional, town and country planning legislation. He challenged all stakeholders to prudently exercise local planning functions and powers to avert the sprouting of illegal and irregular settlements.
“Government is expanding the scope of the growth centre strategy, with regards facilitating sustainable development and economic growth. Rural district councils are therefore directed to identify more centres, to be designated as growth centres.
“These must see the establishment of modern and self-contained economically viable settlements which provide land for multiple purposes.
“Through the envisaged balanced spatial development and growth under the new growth point strategy, our citizens across the socio-economic spectrum must enjoy decent living and working spaces,” he said.
The President said critical aspects of the National Development Strategy and the broader National Vision 2030 must continue to be evident at the grassroots level, among our communities and the people.
He said the smart city concept should be embraced more broadly to enhance not only the revenue streams of councils, but also the security and quality of services, and life in general of the people.
“On its part, my sdministration is supporting the development of new smart cities in Mt Hampden, Kanyemba, Manhize, Melfort and Masuwe. In view of the opportunities which the new cities and the urban renewal projects have to offer, I once again invite our people, both locally and those in the diaspora, to take up the challenge and contribute to the ongoing building of a modern and industrialised Zimbabwe,” he said.