Democracy and Development in Zimbabwe: Constraints of Decentralisation
Published by SAPES Books 1998
Prof John Makumbe
In his book Development and Democracy in Zimbabwe: Constraints of Decentralisation, the author, Professor John Makumbe, looks at the pre and post-independent Local Government structures.
Although the late professor was a rabid critic of the ZANU PF Government in this book, he could not help but expose some of the atrocities committed by the former colonial master to entrench white superiority.
He notes that the colonial system was primarily based on the principle of ‘separate development’ of races, notably whites and blacks, with the former benefitting more from the system than the latter.
“The evolution of the Local Government system was based on the racial division of land which, through a number of pieces of legislation, created urban areas which were the preserve of whites, large-scale commercial farmers, which were all settled by whites and Tribal Trust Lands and later African Purchase Areas, which were considered African commercial farmlands.
Three types of local authorities emerged, namely: urban councils, rural councils in the LSCFs and African Councils (ACs) catering for the blacks in the TTLs and APAs.”
The colonial plan located many urban centres on land for the whites which was in agro-ecological regions 1, 11 and 111.
These were areas of good rainfall, temperate climate and relatively more fertile soils.
Africans were only allowed to reside in urban areas if they were employed in commerce, industry or as domestic workers of white urban dwellers.
And whites perpetuated the notion that blacks were inferior even after Zimbabwe’s independence.
Reality struck when President Robert Mugabe led the land redistribution exercise and the slave became the master and 17 years down the line Zimbabwe’ agriculture sector is a success story.
Makumbe notes that the African Rural Councils disregarded the traditional chiefs and headmen.
“To the extent that African DCs were utilised by the white CG to implement some of its repressive measures against the Africans, they were, rightly, rejected as institutions through which the people could express their opinions, articulate their felt and real needs, and take action to resolve their problems,” writes Professor Makumbe.
“The use, or abuse, of traditional leaders only served to alienate these leaders from their people.”
Going through the book, one cannot help but wonder what was going on with Professor Makumbe, especially in his last years.
Here is a piece of writing by an individual who knew the cruelty of the whiteman.
The professor is very eloquent in his description of the evils of the former colonial master.
And he clearly highlights how his people suffered at the hands of these colonials who came, raided the land, raided the wealth of Africans and exploited them.
One cannot help but conclude that the late professor, in the latter years of his life, was singing for his supper.
In the book, the late professor clearly highlights how development and opportunities were only availed to whites and never included blacks.
Everything that was happening business-wise and any form of development favoured whites, while blacks languished in the reserves where they could not amount to much.
So-called ‘development’ in African areas took place at a snail’s pace.
“Unlike in the urban…Local Government in the African rural areas evolved rather slowly. Although suggestions to the effect that Local Government be extended to African areas were made as far back as 1923, no action was taken until 1931 when Native Boards were established after consultations between native commissioners of various districts…,” writes Makumbe.
He shows how a large chunk of the populace ended up in rural areas.
He then notes how the protection of ‘basic human rights’ by NGOs in the urban areas is a fallacy, as a larger part of the population resides in rural areas.
Makumbe states that some civic organisations ended up forming or backing opposition political parties but solely concentrating in urban areas.
Perhaps, Makumbe foretold the weaknesses and failures of political parties like the MDC-T, Mavambo, and many others that rely on urban voters only and forget that most of the electorate is in the rural areas.
Hence, as long as the MDC and other political parties prioritise the urban electorate and look down on the rural populace, they are yet to begin forays into serious politics.
This book shows how Professor Makumbe feigned ignorance on the real issues that saw the country at loggerheads with the West.