Masvingo CEOs, DDCs meet for devolution review

•Universities, Diaspora are serious factors for development


On Friday February 28, 2020, Nyaradzo Hall at Nyaradzo Funeral Parlour in Masvingo was packed to the brim with Chief Executive Officers (CEO), town secretaries and clerks of all the local authorities in Masvingo Province.
Also present were stakeholders from various Government departments, the private sector, a few members of the public and Press Corps.
The event was for the heads of the Province’s nine local authorities to give reports on devolution programmes so far including the allocations they got from Central Government and how they spent it. It was indeed a commendable exchange among the heads and by extension another form of peer review.
The Minister of State for Masvingo Ezra Chadzamira later said that this would be followed up with a three day workshop.
I must say that all visitors sitting there were impressed by the work of the councils and the consultation processes they undertook in order to come up with the projects on which to spent the devolution budgets.
The CEOs also gave a lot of insight into investment opportunities in their districts ranging from mining, tourism to agriculture. Almost all the districts are looking for investors into solar power because of the abundance of sunshine in the province.
Almost all local authorities complained against inflation and the way it has wiped out value from their allocations.
To dwell on the positives that I noted during the session is probably to add little value to the devolution process which the Constitution of Zimbabwe places highly as a factor of participative democracy in Zimbabwe and transparency in the running of the affairs of the country.
Devolution also has a lot to do with self determination in terms of locals running their own economies.
One of the few weaknesses I found with the reports therefore is that they were rather too elementary in their approach to investment and economic challenges facing this country. This is why I believe that such meetings of local authorities’ CEOs must be like meetings of business executives fully armed with information on local, national, regional and international economic projections.
Power points trends and be used in delivering their presentations. The CEOs summarised their reports from pieces of paper.
The CEOs must be fully equipped with information on where the world economies are going, what is lacking where and how they can fill in. For CEOs to continue to sit and talk about getting a few sheets of asbestos for a school whose classroom block was blown off by wind, fence for a small garden or building a small market place for 20 vendors is to waste the province’s resources.
Such issues should be left to village and ward meetings and not a provincial convention.
Devolution must be seen as liberation of CEOs to think big, to think international, to think outside the box and to be innovators. They cannot continue to run the same subsistence economies that have been there from before colonialism.
There are two local factors which I think local authorities need to harness for purposes of real and serious development without continuing to run after the illusive foreign investor.
Local authorities need to make serious synergies with universities for research into serious projects in their areas. They also need to tap into the Zimbabwean Diaspora for investor money.
Zimbabwe has so many people working in the diaspora and according to statistics released by Insuarance and Pension Commission these people collectively earn US$30 billion and some of them don’t even know how and where to spend their money.
Why not create a register of the district’s locals who are in the Diaspora and constantly and vigorously engage them on investment opportunities? All that the Diaspora needs is the confidence that their investment is safe from the politics and corruption of Zimbabwe.
Many Zimbabweans in the Diaspora have after 20 years of economic instability reached a stage where they are making up their minds to change citizenship and permanently stay outside Zimbabwe. They are selling their houses here and buying millions of dollars worth of properties in South Africa, in the UK , in America and this trend can be arrested if local authorities extend stakeholders beyond those living in their areas.
The willingness to come back home is there among our Diasporas but the captains of politics and administration are not creating the right environment.
I also see a mindset where all the local authorities are largely preoccupied with addressing the problems of the present which are really welfare without a look into the future. Mind my ignorance but I have never come across a five year, 10 year, 20 or 30 year strategic plan for most of our local authorities.
If such plans are however there, the truth is that they are rarely followed because of the interference of politics.
Most so called development projects by rural councils can best be described as hand to mouth. The councils have become welfarist; they are content with distributing little pockets of food to starving villagers, helping a clinic with a few bags of cement, sinking a small borehole at a business centre and this is why one would find that 100% of devolution funds are spend on welfare.
Another tragedy is that devolution funds are also being manipulated for political expedience by those in power.Leaders with political agendas choose where and how to spend devolution funds.
Councils’ current programmes dove tail well with an ageing rural population whose majority is in the forty to a 100 years but have nothing to do with students at the university or the primary school child who is in Grade 1.
This is why everyone who gets, a degree, a diploma or even Form 4 migrate to South Africa or any other country. Our rural districts are not being developed to accommodate the majority who are still in school.
The local authorities must establish University campuses for Agriculture, mining, history research etc so that University and Poly students are permanently domiciled there and when they finish their studies they are already into rural activities that can sustain them economically. By so doing the country builds a more and more sophisticated rural populace ready to take Zimbabwe into modernity.
A sad concern that I had is that the meeting of the CEOs was supposed to start at 1030am. These important officers were kept milling around until about 1230 waiting for the Minister of State Ezra Chadzamira to come and officially open the meeting.
They were then forced to start the meeting without him and he only pitched up at the tail end. In business parlance, Chadzamira is to Masvingo what a company chairperson is to his company.
No serious company chairman is ever late for such an important meeting. Cde Chadzamira is supposed to sit through such meetings so he sees the issues for himself.

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