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for amendments to legislation on local government
An audit of
the Urban Councils Act and the Regional Town and Country Planning
Residents Association (ZURA) & Combined Harare Residents' Association
Harare Residents Association (CHRA) under the auspices of Zimbabwe
United Residents Association (ZURA) commissioned an audit of the
Urban Councils Act [Chapter 29:15] and other related legislation,
with a view to discover to what extent public participation in urban
local government is entrenched within the legal system.
of the audit were presented and discussed at various workshops through
out the country as already outlined in the foregoing chapter.
the legislative framework for civic participation in municipal governance,
we looked first into the constitution of the Republic of Zimbabwe
and other Acts of Parliament in relation to the concepts above.
The following are the key points that we note that there are no
in the Constitution of Zimbabwe, and
enshrine a decentralised system of neither urban nor rural local
government. We understand that the Draft Constitution of Zimbabwe,
which was rejected by the majority of voters in early 2000, had
recognised local government and sought to enshrine decentralisation
as a principle.
the sad point above, we then examined the Urban Councils Act and
the Regional Town and Country Planning Act 1996, which are the two
pieces of legislation that guide the day today management of urban
councils and landuse planning and management respectively in urban
areas in Zimbabwe.
- The Act is
characterised by delegation rather than decentralisation of power
- The Act is
built upon the concept of upward accountability and not local
accountability. The Minister responsible for local government
has a say in many issues and not the local people or civic groups.
- Related to
the above, Central Government, and not the local people, retains
firm control over all local authorities with powers to suspend
the enabling legislation, suspend a local authority and put in
an administrator as has been done in the case of City of Harare,
and suspend individual councillors and prohibit them from taking
active part in local politics
- We did not
find any sections that give recognition and acknowledge the existence
of civic groups such as residents and ratepayers associations.
In Mozambique, the election of representatives into councils is
not restricted to partisanship. Civic groups are allowed to nominate
a candidate to stand for election.
- The Act provides
for the direct election of councillors and mayors by the residents
of a town for a term of four years. Residents are therefore free
to participate in electing their representatives.
- The Act provides
that no meeting of council shall commence before half past four
o’clock in the afternoon unless it is an exceptional meeting and
the majority of members have agreed to it. What this has done
is to exclude the participation of women in council meetings,
as councils meetings take place during the time that they are
expected to be preparing meals for their families at home. The
tendency also is for council meetings to finish off late, normally
after 7pm, which is risky for women participants relying on public
transport to travel from council meetings.
- In relation
to landuse planning, where the council wishes to use a piece of
land for parking purposes which is not zoned for such, the council
is required to advertise in two issues of a newspaper for such
change of use. The Act is silent on the process of public consultation
with regards to planning for parking within the city. Recently,
changes by Harare City Council on parking policies have been implemented
without consultation of the commuting neither public nor the transport
- The Act provides
for the establishment of a
procurement Board of between 5 and 7 members, and further allows
for a technical committee to be established to assist the board.
- The Act provides
for the establishment of co-operative companies and co-operative
societies to carry on commercial, industrial, agricultural and
other activities such as advance moneys and give other assistance.
This is the kind of support that we envisage municipal council
can give to CBOs and NGOs as a way of supporting their development.
- In formulating
bylaws, the act requires consultation with stakeholders. This
means that it is not possible for council to formulate a by-law
without seeking the opinion of residents.
- With regards
to rating of property, the Act provides for objections to be made
by residents. There seems to be a tendency for the Act to provide
mainly for objections to certain developments, but not so much
for initiating development activities or making contributions.
It is assumed that such contributions can be made through the
elected representative, but when it comes to objections, they
are better made by the aggrieved party,.
powers. The Act also provides for public notice, thorough the
press, for an application for borrowing powers. The selected medium
for disseminating information in the Act presupposes that residents
are literate, and that they gain access to the press advertisements.
While this is only but a minimum requirement, there is need for
wider consultation on borrowing powers and such application, such
that residents are able to understand the impact of the burden
of borrowing in terms of additional payments that will be required
to service the debt.
- The Act requires
that the council bylaws and Act be made available for inspection
at its offices. The assumption taken by the authors of the Act
that there is a fair understanding of the English language and
the legal jargon. The Act should impose a duty to make councils
bylaws available in local languages for easy understanding.
- On matters
of accounts, no conditions are imposed by the Act for dissemination
of information to residents on collection, utilisation and balances
of moneys belonging to council.
of the Regional Town and Country Planning Act
RTCP Chapter 29:12 1996 establishes every municipal council, town
council, rural district council or local board as the local planning
authority for the area under its jurisdiction. The Act gives power
to these local planning authorities to prepare, implement, alter,
repeal or replace operative master and local plans and approved
town schemes. The Act is, in my view, one of the most powerful in
Zimbabwe as it deals with land and improvements, regulates land
use activities, including the subdivision and consolidation of such
land pieces. The extent to which, therefore the act allows for civic
participation in urban development is a measure of the prospects
for participation in urban development in Zimbabwe.
Act provides for the establishment of regional planning councils
and their mandate in Part II Section 3 to 9. The Regional Planning
Council is established by the President, with the composition of
such a council being task of the Minister. Nowhere does the act
provide for civic participation in the preparation of the regional
plan. Impliedly though, during the preparation of an inventory of
the region, existing civic associations may be identified and become
used as a resource. Even when the issue at hand is the environment,
environmental groups are not considered an important source of information.
Further, the composition of the Regional Council is left as a ministerial
task, without guidelines on pressure groups or civic associations
that need to be represented. In the preparation of the regional
plan, civic participation only becomes an issue at the stage of
putting the draft regional plan on public exhibit. Persons that
the regional planning council are supposed to consult as in Section
7  are those that the Minister will have directed the council
to do so. One wonders then for whom the regional plan will be prepared.
The provisions of the RTCP in so far as regional planning are inadequate
when it comes to public consultation and civic participation in
that women’s participation has been accorded in development discourse
over the years is yet to find its way in some of the important statutes
governing land and development such land. The spirit of the Act
is that development is gender neutral, which has been demonstrated
in literature that it is not. There is need for the regional plan
to be gender sensitive through the inclusion of women representatives,
preparation of master plans is mandated to local planning authorities
as specified earlier on. Before a master plan is prepared, local
planning authorities are directed to undertake a study of the planning
area. It is through the conduct of the study that the first step
of citizen consultation is expected to occur. Further the LPA is
directed to consult neighbouring local planning authorities, but
not specific interest groups, neither women.
Section 15 of
the RTCP dwells on Publicity in Connection with the Master Plan
directing that in formulating and determining the contents of the
master plan, the LPA shall take steps as will, in its opinion, ensure
that there is adequate consultation in connection with the matters
proposed to be included in the master plan. This is certainly bounded
consultation, first it is the LPA that determines the amount of
consultation, and second the consultation is only in connection
with matters that are proposed to be included in the master plan.
Therefore interest groups that have matters NOT included in the
master plan can be ignored during the consultation.
The master plan
is then put on public exhibit at places that will have been notified.
What is important to note about the RTCP is that it places emphasis
on seeking the approval of the public of a draft plan, and does
not place sufficient emphasis on wide consultation before the draft
plan is produced. This attitude exhibited in the RTCP is based on
the premise that planning is a highly technical job, which the officials
must be left to proceed to do without public interference. However,
the ACT requires that the public appreciate the plan and before
the Minister approves it and at best to make objections. What is
required therefore is to demystify the planning process. Rather
than invite the public to make objections, there should be room
for the public to work hand in glove with the LPA such that by the
time of public exhibit of the plan, there are not many objections.
The argument that citizen participation prolongs the planning process
flies in the face of the fact that landuse planning is such an important
activity, determine as where ‘semi-‘permanent development
should take place. The planning process should therefore be allowed
to be as long as it takes to achieve consensus on the more important
decisions regarding the location of activities.
similar steps are followed in the preparation of local plans, hence
the same observation s as in preparation and implementation of master
serious omission of the RTCP Act is that it does not see the role
of civil society or in its language the ‘public’, beyond
preparation of the plans. There are no provisions through
which the public can follow the implementation of the master or
local plan, and evaluate jointly with the LPA the success or failure
of one plan before the next one is prepared. The inherent assumption
of the RTCP is that the LPA does not fail in implementing the plan,
but instead physical plans become obsolete with time, as conditions
under which they were prepared may have changed. The weakness of
this system is that the LPA will proceed to prepare another plan,
without accounting to anyone on what happened with the other plan.
V of the RTCP deals with development control. The main point to
raise about the RTCP is that it establishes the role of LPA in controlling
development, but does not specifically define the role of LPA in
promoting development. This is left to a separate Act, the Urban
Councils Act, [and RDC ACT] which gives a range of powers to the
LPA to engage in estate development etc. The effect of this is that
planners have been criticised unfairly for development control and
doing nothing about promoting development.
weakness in the RTCP is that it is silent on mobilised representation
in favour of or against certain developments. The ACT takes a narrow
view in dealing with the role of pressure groups or civic associations,
as it does not recognise their existence nor give weight to mass
protests or demonstrations. For example, associations have made
representation against the opening of some night-clubs to no avail.
This does not mean that some protests or petitions are representative
of sectarian and at times selfish interests.
Need to Decentralise
Powers of the Minister in the Residents
have highlighted, but may be not sufficiently, that fact that the
Minister responsible for the two Acts [Minister of Local Government,
Public Works and National Housing], wields tremendous power. In
the Act, this power is vested in the Minister in the interest of
the public. There is an inherent assumption that the civil society
is weak, hence requires that protection of the Minister. This could
have been true in the past, but it requires review today given the
literacy levels achieved in most urban settlements. The residents
of a local authority can not dissolve their council, but the Minister.
There is need for review, so that the powers vested in the Minister
can be ploughed back to the residents and citizens. For example,
the power to dissolve a council.
The above requires
detailed study of the Urban Councils Act and the Regional Town and
Country Planning Act, and recommendations have to be made on the
institutional structures to which the powers of the Minister have
to be devolved.
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