Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Local government: Zimbabwe and Malawi

Zimbabwe has, until now, maintained a dual system of local government coordination, with urban municipalities falling into one group and rural municipalities into another. This split isn't unheard of in Africa but presents certain problems - although urban and rural areas may face slightly different challenges, the issues that local government deals with tend to be unique to geographic areas, rather than common to a specific type of settlement. The Minister of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development has now instructed all local authorities to unite to form one local government association. 

He also, as part of the same move, called on local governments to assume a measure of autonomy and get on with leveraging their assets to provide services, leaving the national government to focus on policies. Of course, there are also comments to the effect that local leadership must be exactly in line with national views, but the recognition of the autonomous and distinct role of local government is crucial to functioning government systems and something that is so often missing in Southern African circles. 

In other local government news, the Malawian president has finally, eventually, reopened the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), raising hopes that the long-delayed local government elections might take place this year. The president has ordered that those implicated in the missing $3 million face charges, but at least the MEC is functioning again. A new date has not yet been set for the elections. 

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