The Scope of Fiscal Devolution in Zimbabwe

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Author: 
M Ncube
Journal Citation: 
Midlands State University Law Review
Media Neutral Citation: 
[2017] MSULRJ 4
Publication Date: 
18 August 2017

 

The Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No.20) Act 2013 was enacted on the 22nd May 2013,1 and makes provision for a unitary state,2 with devolution and decentralisation of governmental powers and functions.3 This is one of the foundational principles underpinning the state of Zimbabwe as outlined in section 3 of the Constitution.4 The Constitution thus explicitly creates a three tier system of the state,5 comprising central government, provincial government, and metropolitan councils and local authorities.6
With regards to the local government sphere, the 2013 Constitution has imbued the local governments with a ‘constitutional’ as opposed to merely ‘legislative’ status as was the case under the previous constitutional regime.7 Local authorities now have the constitutional authority to govern the affairs of the people within their area of jurisdiction on their own initiative.8

Arising out of this constitutionally mandated devolved system of government is the issue of fiscal devolution which is an integral part of the concept of devolution.9 Section 276(2)(b) as read with section 276(2) of the Constitution specifically requires Parliament to enact a law that confers a power on local authorities to levy rates and taxes and generally to raise sufficient revenue for them to carry out their objects and responsibilities. There is no similarprovision in respect of provincial and metropolitan councils yet they are a tier within the devolved framework. The question that arises then is how these entities are expected to fund themselves if there is no conferment of such a power. The constitution further provides for the equitable sharing of national resources within the three tier system.10
This paper assesses fiscal devolution outlined in the Constitution and examines its scope. However, in assessing fiscal devolution provisions in the Constitution, the paper first highlights the provision on fiscal devolution and then considers how the issue of supremacy of the constitution impacts the interpretation of the fiscal devolution provision.

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*LLB (University of Zimbabwe); LLM Constitutional and Human Rights Law (Midlands State University, Zimbabwe); Legal Practitioner, Phulu and Ncube Legal Practitioners, Bulawayo.
1 Section 3(1) of Part 2 of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.
2 Section 1 of the Constitution.
3 Section 3(2)(l) of the Constitution.
4 The section provides for founding values and principles underlying the state of Zimbabwe.
5 Section 5 of the Constitution.
6 (ibid).
7 This was in terms of the Urban Councils Act and the Rural District Councils Act.
8 Section 276(1) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
9 P Drummond and A Mansoor, Macro-Economic Management and the Devolution of Fiscal Powers, IMF Working Paper, WP/02/76 (2002) 6, available at https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/wp/2002/wp0276.pdf, (accessed on 10 May 2016). 

10 Section 3(2)(j) of the Constitution.