The Sunday News
Opinion Qhubani Moyo
There is misconception that The Metropolitan Province of Bulawayo is the same as the City of Bulawayo. This misconception has been fuelled by the behaviour of the Bulawayo City Council which has pretended that the two are the same. It has also been fuelled by the failure to implement the requirements of the Presidential Proclaimation 15E of 2004 and the subsequent statutory instruments that created the metropolitan provinces of Bulawayo and Harare. Over the years there has been a tendency to treat both the City of Bulawayo and the Metropolitan Province of Bulawayo as covering the same jurisdiction and therefore one entity.
There has never been intimate application of the mind to make a differentiation of the two and what it means in terms of the Bulawayo political, economic, social service delivery, economic delivery and population. There is a need to urgently deal with the distortion of boundaries in order to have a proper appreciation of the developmental needs of the province and thus deal with the problems in a holistic manner. This will also help the city of Bulawayo concentrate on delivery within its defined areas of jurisdiction.
Most importantly it will help have a clear picture of the economic activities of the metropolitan province given that most of the areas designed to be in its boundaries outside the City of Bulawayo are prime agricultural areas which produce a substantial mix of agricultural products that feed into the City of Bulawayo. Most importantly this will assist in the definition of political boundaries in the next elections as the new Constitution is clear that there should be no delimitation of constituencies that cut across boundaries. It is my contention that this matter is critical and needs urgent attention from all stakeholders.The compelling reasons for this are well expressed in the paragraphs below.
When in the year 2004 there was Presidential Proclamation 15E of 2004 it declared the creation of the metropolitan provinces of Harare and Bulawayo. In both cases the metropolitan boundaries were declared as covering a radius of 40km. It is my understanding that in the case of Harare there has been implementation of this declaration hence the towns of Ruwa and Chitungwiza are now part of the Metropolitan Province of Harare with Chitungwiza having its own council and mayor just like the City of Harare which has its own council and mayor. However, the situation seems different in Bulawayo as there has been total stagnation in the implementation of government requirements.
The reasons for this remain mysteriously unknown as 10 years have gone since the process was set in motion but there is no movement. The net effect of the declaration of Bulawayo into a metropolitan province is that areas within its 40-km radius are part of the province. These go up to Ntabazinduna if you are moving along Harare road, up to Figtree if you are moving along Plumtree road, up to Nyamandlovu if you are moving towards Tsholotsho, most of Umguza area if you are moving along Victoria Falls road, up to Esigodini if you are moving along Gwanda road, up to Solusi if you are in the Solusi direction and up to Matopo if you are moving along Kezi road and up to Queens Mine if you are moving along Nkayi road just to name but a few. This means that all other areas within the radius of 40km in any direction from Bulawayo legally belong to the Metropolitan Province of Buawayo. Most of these areas used to be commercial farms but with the government land reform programme they have been turned to vast human settlements hence the need to rationalise their provincial status in order to work on effective ways of service delivery. It is also important to define which local government entity they belong to so that the responsible authority makes proper developmental plans for them.
What this means is that the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing should work on the modalities for the affected districts to hand over the affected areas to the Metropolitan Province of Bulawayo. The affected districts are Matobo, Bubi, uMzingwane, Mangwe and to a greater extent uMguza.
This should be done as a matter of urgency in order to craft an inventory of the Bulawayo Metropolitan Province economic activities and how they can be used to help the province develop. The handing over of the said areas will redefine the economic activities of Bulawayo Province in a revolutionary way in that whereas in the past years the provincial economy hinged on industries the new boundaries redefine the economic activities in a very big way.
The new areas that will be handed over to the province are fertile agricultural lands which in yesteryear were mainly inhabited by commercial farmers but are now home to thousands of newly resettled farmers who are working hard and are producing substantial agricultural produce to feed the readily available market of the City of Bulawayo. Over and above that the new boundaries will ensure that the Metropolitan Province of Bulawayo gets substantial revenue from mining activities that are scattered in abundance around its 40-km radius.
These mining concerns, some huge and others small-scale, are paying their taxes to the wrong localities and thus prejudicing Bulawayo province of substantial amounts of revenue which can drive its development into a modern city of repute. The regeneration of the province to an economic giant can be achieved if attention is paid to its economic mix which is defined by a mix which includes industry, agriculture, mining and tourism. There will always be questions around the effects of the movement of these areas from the current province.
The answer is two-fold; the first is that this will assist develop Bulawayo City into an economic giant and thus provide the much needed employment opportunities as it feeds from the economic mix from the greater Bulawayo Province. The second is that this is already an issue that is legislated and has taken over a decade to implement. It is my hope that in the past 10 years there has been adequate debate on those affected provinces of Matabeleland North and South on how to cushion themselves from this loss. For the newly resettled farmers this will be a positive move because it means that the value of their land will go up as it will be categorised under a metropolitan province.
The land value because of the city status of the metropolitan areas is high so the new farmers in those areas will be beneficiaries of double empowerment. Further to that it will assist reduce the price of land for those intending to buy residential stands from the satellite towns. The housing backlog of the city stands at astronomic figures and at the same time the prices of stands are out of reach. Clearly, the Bulawayo City Council is taking advantage of the high demand for land against limited space to make a killing.But when there is implementation of the metropolitan boundaries there would be vast tracts of land for residential purposes which can assist depress prices of these stands.
On a political front it will help deal with the issue of numbers of constituencies for the city. There is always a debate on whether the current population figures of the province and the number of constituencies reflect the realities of the boundaries of the Metropolitan Province of Bulawayo. What comes out clearly is that they don’t as the population figures and the constituency boundaries are drawn from a wrong premise.
They ignore the realities of the real boundaries that were defined by the Government in 2004. Now that the new Constitution unequivocally states that there should be no delimitation that cuts across provinces; the issue of rationalisation of Bulawayo metropolitan boundaries becomes even more urgent. The issue can be a cause of conflict if left for too long towards elections because parties which enjoy support in the City of Bulawayo but fare badly in its outskirts might cry foul and accuse the electoral authorities of gerrymandering. It is thus important to implement that as soon as yesterday to ensure that all parties get used to the idea that the constituencies of the City of Bulawayo in 2018 elections shall take a radius of 40km and will include the new resettlement areas of uMguza, Ntabazinduna, Matopo, Nyamandlovu, uMzingwane, Bubi among others. If done early it will even assist the political parties in their planning and strategy. But if left for too long that will definitely be a cause for conflict at a time when the country is enjoying substantial stability which should be maintained. It should be stressed that no one should be allowed to scuttle the process because of fear of lack of acceptance by voters in the new boundaries of Bulawayo. Parties will have to position themselves to sell themselves to these new constituencies.This means that while the new Constitution speaks of delimitation only after 10 years from its inception the situation on the ground demands that those clauses be revisited to allow for delimitation in response to implementation of government directives regarding the boundaries of the Metropolitan Province of Bulawayo.
The responsible Ministers of State of the three affected provinces namely Honourable Cain Mathema of Matabeleland North, Hon Eunice Nomthandazo Moyo of Bulawayo Metropolitan and Hon Abednico Ncube of Matabeleland South should have conversations to smoothen the conclusion of this process which is long overdue. On the other hand the Minister of Local Government Hon Ignatius Chombo and his team should also get into action to ensure that this is done. Over and above all politicians holding public office in Matabeleland from the three parties represented in Parliament, the MDC-led by Professor Welshman Ncube, the MDC-T and Zanu-PF should all support this initiative as it will benefit the region in a big way!
Qhubani Moyo is a public policy analysis expert. He is contactable on [email protected]