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A critical analysis of civic rights in the Urban Councils Act (Chapter 29:15) - The need for amendment and the extent of participation in local governance
Elizabeth Rutsate, Harare Residents' Trust (HRT)
March 10, 2011

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- Critique of the Urban Councils Act MS Word version (32KB)
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- Relevant sections of the Act MS Word version (40.5KB)
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1. Introduction

The current Zimbabwe Constitution does not have any Chapter which deals with Local Government but rather everything to do with Local Government is contained in several Acts of Parliament. The local government system in Zimbabwe is a legislative rather than a constitutional creature. The Urban Councils Act [Chapter 29:15] and the Rural District Councils Act [Chapter 29:13] establish urban and rural local authorities respectively, as well as provide for the supervisory and monitoring roles of national government in the running of local authorities. Practically speaking, this means Local Government does not operate independently of Central Government; the latter which determines the composition of its administrative structures and functions. The activities of local government units are coordinated by the Ministry of Local Government. This situation is not desirable as it is not in line with democratic forms of governance. The ideal situation is whereby Local Government administration is regulated by the Constitution rather than Acts of Parliament since local governance issues need the protection of the Supreme Law of the Land. So the starting point should be to include local governance issues in the new Constitution to be drafted in Zimbabwe if Harare residents are to actively participate in local governance issues in line with international human rights standards.

It is important to note that while the current Zimbabwe Constitution has no provision relating to Local Government, the 2000 Constitutional Commission Draft, the NCA Draft, the Kariba Draft and the Law Society of Zimbabwe Model constitutions have included issues of local governance in them. With regard to other African Constitutions; South Africa, Kenya, Rwanda, Malawi and Uganda, to mention just a few have included a chapter on Local Government in their National Constitutions. Below in tabulated form, is information on how the various constitutions starting with local Draft Constitutions have dealt with one topic under Local Government namely Principles of local Government. It is against such background that a critical analysis has to be made of the Urban Councils Act to see whether it meets the grade. For ease of reference the relevant sections which need to be amended have also been placed in tables with a column for analysis or comments.

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