A Case for Decentralization in Zimbabwe’s local government system: Challenges and Opportunities

  • Takudzwa Madzimure Central China Normal University
Keywords: Decentralization, local government, service delivery, accountability, democracy


The issue of decentralization in Zimbabwe’s local government system has been topical since the colonial era. In the post-independence epoch the expectation was that the new majority government would address the centralization of governance which was motivated by racial imbalances. However, decentralization was not achieved as local government was not recognized in the Lancaster House Constitution adopted at independence in 1980. For years this allowed the central government to control all the local government structures in the country. The relationship between local governments and the central government became bitter and tense after the formation of a formidable opposition, MDC, which has been controlling most urban local authorities since its formation. The 2013 Constitution has not improved things either as the central government has not been willing to implement the new law to its latter and spirit. In all this it is the citizens who have been bearing the brunt as there has been poor service delivery owing to the bad relationship between the center and local structures. The study found out that if decentralization is fully implemented in Zimbabwe it has the potential of bringing efficient and effective service delivery, citizen participation, democracy and accountability in the local government system. The paper also makes recommendations on what needs to be done to achieve decentralization in the country’s local government system.


1. Ekpo, A. (2007). Decentralization And Service Delivery: A Framework, African Economic Research Consortium (AERC), Nairobi.
2. Wolman, H. (1990). Decentralization: What it is and why we should care. In R.J. Bennet (Ed) Decentralization, Local Government and Markets: Towards a Post Welfare Agenda, Clarendon Press, Oxford.
3. Murimoga, R., Constantine, M., Musingafi, C. (2014). Local governance and service delivery in Zimbabwean local authorities-the case of Harare and Masvingo Urban municipalities. International Journal of Public Policy and Administration Research, 1 (3), 94 – 107.
4. Olowu,D. and Wunch, J. S. (2004). Local Government in Africa; the Challenge of Democratic Decentralisation, Boulder, Lynne Rienner Publisher, Inc.
5. Chakaipa, S. (2010). Local Government Institutions and Elections, in Local Government Reform In Zimbabwe: A Policy Dialogue, University of Western Cape: Community Law Centre.
6. Zimbabwe Institute, (2005). Local Government: Policy Review, Zimbabwe Institute Cape Town.
7. Ojofeitimi, T. (2000). Managing at the Grassroots: Local Government and Rural Development in the 21st Century. Lagos: Centre for Management Development
8. Ikelegbe, A.O. 2005. The Local Government System and Grassroots Development in Nigeria: Issues, Problems and Challenges. In A.G. Onokerhoraye and G. Omuta (eds). Perspectives on Development: A Book in Honour of Pius Oghenerukohwo Sada. Benin City: Centre for Population and Environmental Development.
9. Nazeem, I., Saheed, B.M., & Meyer, H. I. (1997). Local Government Management. International Thompson Publishing . Johannesburg.
10. Tardoff, W. (1994). Decentralization: Comparative Experiences in Commonwealth Africa, Journal of Modern African Studies, 32 (4), 555-580.
11. Amin, Samir, Giovanni Arrighi, Andre Gunder Frank, and Immanuel Wallerstein. 1982. Dynamics of global crisis . New York: Monthly Review Press.
12. Mosha, A. (1996). The City of Gaborone, Botswana: Planning and Management Ambio, A Journal of the Human Environment, 25 (2), 118-125
13. Schneider, A. (2003). Decentralization: Conceptualization and Measurement. Studies in International Comperative Development. (38)3, 32 – 56
14. Rondinelli, D.A. & Nellis, J.R. (1986). “Assessing decentralization policies in developing countries: The case for cautious optimism” Development Policy Review, 4(1), 3 – 5
15. Scot-Herridge, R. (2002). Decentralization – Does it Deliver Good Governance and Improved Services? The Experience of Uganda. African Studies Centre, Coventry University.
16. Musgrave, R., A. (1959). The Theory of Public Finance. New York: McGraw-Hill
17. Muchadenyika D (2015) The inevitable devolution in Zimbabwe: from constitution-making to the future. In: De Visser J (ed) Constitution-building in Africa. Community Law Centre: University of the Western Cape, Bellville, pp 119–139
18. Nash, S. and Nash, D. (2004). Delivering Outstanding Customer Service, New Dehli: USB Publisher Distributers Limited.
19. Majekodunmi, A. (2012). The State of Local Government and Service Delivery in Nigeria: Challenges and Prospects. Africa’s Public Service Delivery and Performance Review
20. Lipsey, R. and Chrystal, A. (2009). Economics, Oxford University Press.
21. Makanyeza, C., Kwandayi, H.P., & Ikobe, B.N. (2013). Strategies To Improve Service Delivery In Local Authorities.
22. Bovaird, T., & Löffler, E. (2003). Evaluating the Quality of Public Governance: Indicators, Models and Methodologies. International Review of Administrative Sciences, 69(3), 313–328.
23. Chukwuemeka, E., Ugwuanyi, B., I., Ndubuisi-Okolo, P., Onuoha, C., E. (2014). Nigeria Local Government: A Discourse on the Theoretical Imperatives in a Governmental System. An International Multidisciplinary Journal, Ethiopia. 8 (2), 305-324.
24. Kafle, S. & Karke, K. (2003). ―Towards Ideal Local Government: Strengthening Participatory Development. Unpublished Memoir.
25. Adeyemo, D. (2010). Public-Private Partnership and Strategic Management at the Local Government. Paper Presented at the National Workshop on Structure and Functions of Nigerian Local Government for Efficient Service Delivery at the Grassroots Level by the National Forum of Chairmen of Local Government Service Commission of Nigeria. 13 – 15 March.
26. Nico, S. (2008). ―Enhancement of Democracy Through Empowerment of Disadvantaged Groups, In John, K. and Rupak, C. (eds.) Local Government in Federal System. New Delhi Viva Books Ltd.
27. Horste, R. et al. (2005). Local Government in Federal Systems. In John K. and Rupak C (eds). Local Government in Federal Systems. New Delhi: Viva Books Ltd.
28. Institute for Democratic Alternative for Zimbabwe (IDAZIM). (2010). Local Governance in Transition: Zimbabwe’s Local Authorities during the Inclusive Government. http://www.rti.org/pubs/zimbabwe_local_governance_report.pdf
29. Jonga,W.,(2014). Local Government System in Zimbabwe and Associated Challenges: Synthesis and Antithesis, Archives of Business Research,2 (1), 75 – 98
30. Mapuva, J. (2001). Enhancing local governance through local initiatives: Residents associations in Zimbabwe. http://www.academicjournals.org/ajhc/PDF/pdf2011/Feb/Mapuva.pdf'[12October'2012
31. Mushamba, S., Bhoroma, L., Chirisa, I., Chaumba, A. (2014). The dynamics of devolution in Zimbabwe: a briefing paper on local democracy, Action Aid Denmark.
32. Gasper, D. R. (1997) Decentralization, Coordination and, Integration: Reflections from Zimbabwe in the 1980s.
33. Chatiza, K. (2016). Introduction. The Constitution of Zimbabwe 2013 as a basis for local government transformation: A Reflective Analysis. http://www.clgf.org.uk/default/assets/file/publications/reports/local_government_constitutionalisation_in_zimbabwe_clgf_2016.pdf
34. Kamete, Y.A. (2006). The return of the jettisoned: ZANU-PF’s crack at ‘re-urbanising’ in Harare. Journal of South African Studies, 32(2), 255–271
35. Chakaipa, S. & Chakunda, V. (2016). Local Government Institutions’ Readiness to Live the Constitution. The Constitution of Zimbabwe 2013 as a basis for local government transformation: A Reflective Analysis.http://www.clgf.org.uk/default/assets/file/publications/reports/local_government_constitutionalisation_in_zimbabwe_clgf_2016.pdf
36. Chambers, (2012). Culture and Growth: Some Empirical Evidence; Salisbury University, Salisbury.
37. Dewa, D., Dziva, C. and Mukwashi, K. (2014). Exploring Local Governance Challenges in Zimbabwe under the Government of National Unity era and beyond. International Journal of Political Science and Development. Vol. 2(8), 188-196
38. Constitution of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Amendment No. 20, 2013, GoZ, Government Printers, Harare
39. Moyo, P. and Ncube, C. (2014). Devolution of power in Zimbabwe’s new constitutional order: Opportunities and potential constraints, Law Democracy & Development. Volume 18, 289 – 304
40. Wekwete K.H. (2014) Local Government and Local Economic Development in Southern Africa. Technical Report prepared for the Commonwealth Local Government Forum, UK
41. Maisiri, T. (2013). In N. Bhebhe “President Mugabe ‘dumps’ devolution.” http://www.southerneye.co.zw/2013/09/12/president-mugabe-dumps-devolution.
42. Chigwata, T.C. & de Visser, J. (2018). Local government in the 2013 constitution of Zimbabwe: Defining the boundaries of local autonomy. Hague Journal on the Rule of Law, 10(1), 154 – 185.
43. Zimbabwe Legal Information Institute (2016). https://zimlii.org/zw/judgment/harare-high-court/2016/381
44. Neyapti, (2010). Fiscal Decentralization and Deficits: International Evidence. Bilkent University, Ankara.
45. UN HABITAT. (2010). ''African Cities 2010; Governance, Inequality and Urban Land Markets, Nairobi.
46. Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN). (2008). Post-Election Update. www.zesn.org.zw/publications/publication_212.doc
47. Ahmad, Junaid et al (2005). Decentralization and Service Delivery, World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 3603.
48. Miller, K.L (2002) Advantages and disadvantages of local government decentralisation. Paper presented at the Conference on Local Government and decentralization on 25 to 28 June 2007,Georgetown, Guyana
49. Ingham, B. & Kalam, A.K.M. (1992). “Decentralisation and development: Theory and evidence from Bangladesh, Public Administration and Development .
50. World Bank. (2001). World development report 2000/2001: attacking poverty.
51. Chikulo, B.C. (1998). Decentralisation and the role of the state in the future” in Mandaza I (ed) Governance and human development in Southern Africa: Selected Essays, Harare: Southern Africa Printing and Publishing House, 81 at 83.
52. Schaeffer, M. (2005). Local Government Accountability: Challenges and Strategies, World Bank.
53. Barnett, C.C., Minis, H.P., & Van Sant, J. (1997). Democratic decentralization. http://www.rti.org/pubs/Democr_Decen.PDF
54. Shafritz, J.M. (2011). Classics of Public Administration, Wadsworth Publishing
55. Government of Zimbabwe (1997). Urban Councils Act [Chapter 29:15] 21/1997
56. Government of Zimbabwe (1988). Rural District Councils [Chapter 29:13] 8/1988
How to Cite
Madzimure, T. (2021). A Case for Decentralization in Zimbabwe’s local government system: Challenges and Opportunities . Archives of Business Research, 9(2), 1-21. https://doi.org/10.14738/abr.92.9580