Matabeleland South running on autopilot
MATABELELAND South province has been without a Provincial Affairs Minister for almost a year now but not many people are feeling the absence of the regional head.
The position fell vacant on September 11, 2015 after Abednigo Ncube was reassigned to the Ministry of Rural Development and Preservation of National Cultural Heritage.
No explanation has been given for the non-appointment of a new resident minister.
Interestingly, the province is also running without a substantive Provincial Administrator (PA) after Midard Khumalo was sacked in April last year.
War veterans agitated for the sacking of the top civil servant, accusing him of corruptly allocating land.
Currently, the province is being overseen by Insiza District Administrator, Sithandiwe Ndumo-Ncube, who is the acting PA.
Being one of the provinces hardest hit by the El Nino-induced famine, there is a serious leadership crisis in Matabeleland South that might hamper efforts to mobilise food aid.
The PA heads a province’s disaster management committee.
Sources from the province, which has some of the country’s poorest districts, are alleging marginalisation by the country’s leadership.
“This is a serious case of marginalisation of our region which must stop. Going for almost a year without a Provincial Affairs Minister and over a year without a substantive PA is surely testimony to the fact that our leaders do not care much about us. Have we been forgotten?” said a source.
Christopher Mushohwe, the Minister of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services, has dismissed the marginalisation claims saying President Robert Mugabe was still consulting on the most suitable person to appoint as minister in charge of the province.
“The person who appoints ministers is the President. He will appoint one for the province when he finds one who is most suitable,” he said.
That the province has been running on autopilot for the past year seems to have vindicated those who, in the past, have questioned the wisdom and necessity of provincial ministers.
Analysts said Provincial Ministers were being used more as an extension of ZANU-PF’s commissariat department whose duty is to mobilise support for the party than for the good governance of the country.
“They are literal cash kiosks for the elite politicians and are never designed to provide services,” said local government expert, Kudzai Chatiza.
“The ministers are not necessarily adding value as they are not accountable to the province. They also do not have technical and implementation connections with provincial levels of government. Their operations are directly linked to the Office of the President and Cabinet and they lack a developmental budget. In short, they are not properly grafted into formal government bureaucracy. The ministers are just there to perform party political functions than developmental ones,” he added.
Political commentator, Rashweat Mukundu, said the provincial ministers could have added value to governance if they had preoccupied themselves with the country’s developmental agenda.
“The challenge is what mandate do they have and are they on a defined role to deliver? In our case, they are just political actors — more looking out for political trouble makers than developmental issues,” said Mukundu.
Entitled to expensive all-terrain vehicles, in addition to executive top class Mercedes Benz cars, the country’s 10 provincial ministers do not come cheap.
They are currently cruising in the latest Land Rover Discovery 4 models valued at US$96 000.
In addition, government gives them Mercedes-Benz E350 sedans which cost US$126 000 each.
Watchers have argued that provincial ministries are nothing but a conduit for the ruling party ZANU-PF to divert government funds to party activities.
There was anger in June 2014 when government borrowed US$1,4 million from a local bank to purchase 11 Merdedes-Benz sedans for the ministers in addition to all-terrain vehicles sourced earlier.
Before they were named provincial ministers under the new Constitution, they were previously known as provincial governors.