Zimbabwe could soon be divided into five regions, each with a budget and local parliament of its own, a Cabinet minister has hinted.
The plan to devolve power to the regions would be modelled on the South African example which has nine provinces, each with their own premier, minister and a parliament.
Water Resources Minister Samuel Sipepa Nkomo announced the move that has the backing of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party.
Sipepa told a constituency meeting that the MDC would be championing the proposals when the country draws-up a new constitution, a process which is already underway and could last two years.
Nkomo said: “Here, we cry that we are marginalised. The time is now to talk about regional governments. In the national budget there should be a budget for Matabeleland, Mashonaland and so on. Isn’t that fair?”
The proposals will now likely dominate the constitutional debate.
The clamour for devolution is loudest in Zimbabwe’s south-western regions over long-held perceptions that central government has deliberately suppressed economic development in the area.
Nkomo said: “As the national Minister of Water Resources and Development, I should be working with a regional minister of the same portfolio. An example is not far away, it’s here in South Africa. They have a prime minister, ministers and regional parliaments.
“This is our stance; we want each region to have its own parliament. We want the regions to rule themselves according to their culture. We want our grievances to be addressed to Bulawayo as the regional capital of Matabeleland than travel to Harare.”
Under the plan, Zimbabwe’s 10 provinces would be collapsed into Matabeleland, Mashonaland, Manicaland, Masvingo and the Midlands. Each region would be in charge of budget allocations, management of resources and the local economy.