Africa Battles with Decentralization

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By Engel Nawatiseb WINDHOEK A partnership between the Municipal Development Partnership (MDP), Eastern and Southern Africa as well as the Namibian local authorities in the dynamics of Good Governance and Urban Management and Service Provision has encouraged the development of good governance as a critical component of effective running of urban local authorities. The five-day course that commenced in the capital yesterday brought together close to 300 participants including mayors, their deputies and councillors from the city of Windhoek, and other municipalities, towns and villages across the country. The course is aimed at creating an environment at the respective authorities where councillors should value input from all stakeholders in their constituencies by fostering a spirit of mutual cooperation with residents and equally to nurture a hunger for the ideals and principles of good governance in urban local authorities. The Minister of Regional, Local Government, Housing and Rural Development, John Pandeni, told elected leaders that there should be no reason for hunger and poverty inflicted upon the African people should all stakeholders devote their energy towards unity and equitable distribution of resources on the continent without the ills of greed or corruption. ” The cities and towns of East and Southern Africa, if their capacity is enhanced through human resources development and strengthening of institutions, should become magnets of prosperity and economic development. It follows that our leaders in East and Southern Africa must not only talk the talk, but should walk the talk, although there are already indications that some are indeed walking the talk,” said Pandeni. He encouraged African mayors to strive to identify and implement priority areas of efficient quality service delivery, human development through training programmes as well as dispute-resolution mechanisms to sustain democracy, peace and justice with expressed emphasis on the rural and urban poor. The Director of MDP, George Matovu, noted that cities are characterized by run-down and overstretched infrastructure, rapid development of overcrowded and unplanned settlements without adequate water and sanitary provisions and huge piles of stinking garbage. Dr Morgan Chawawa stressed that the challenges facing local authorities are not only limited to the provision of traditional services but also the capacity to respond to challenges brought by rapid urbanization such as unemployment, the spread of HIV/AIDS, environment al degradation, crime, urban violence and drug pushing. The town clerk of the city of Mutare, Zimbabwe says good urban governance is the exercise of political, economic and administrative authority to manage urban affairs which enables councils to conduct their public affairs, manage public resources and guarantee its citizens the realization of civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights. ” It entails that the voices of the poorest and the most vulnerable are heard in the decision-making processes, and indeed without good governance, development efforts are at the very least undermined and at the very worst doomed to failure. Supporting participatory, transparent and accountable governing institutions require engaging the private sector, civil society and the council. Political, social and economic priorities are based on a broad consensus in society,” stated Chawawa. Chawawa advised elected leaders to build relationships with the residents based on mutual trust, high moral standards and impeccable professionalism. They should further endeavour, he stressed, to share a common vision, mission, values, beliefs and moral convictions to render legitimacy to the actions and tenure of the leadership. Speaking at the same occasion, the Chief Executive Officer of the National Housing Enterprise, Vinson Hailulu, observed that the policy of devolution of power and authority to sub-national governments is increasingly adopted and applied in African countries as part of efforts to structure governments to promote the participation of people in decision-making processes. He stated that efforts that were undertaken by many African countries to promote decentralized governance are not moving at the same pace with the political conviction. ” Some countries have gone beyond political hesitation and put in place policies of decentralization but lack the capacities for implementation. Others are still politically hesitant nor sure of the role of decentralized governance in democratization, people empowerment and poverty reduction.” Hailulu pointed out that others have moved a long way forward in implementing decentralization but still require the capacity to sustain the process. He added that decentralized governance is only worthwhile if it contributes to the improvement of the delivery of services at local level. “In the same way, local level leadership should be developed with the view to making leaders, facilitators and movers of local level service delivery for poverty reduction. In strengthening local governance, both leaders at central and local government levels need to work in harmony rather than in conflict.” The mayor of Windhoek, Mattheus Shikongo, commended stakeholders that have organized the course at a time when most urban local authorities are facing challenges through urbanization though citizens enjoy the right to relocate elsewhere in the country as part of their constitutional rights.