A critique of by-law development and implementation in Chivi District, Zimbabwe
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The proper alignment of authority and responsibility within and between various levels of social organization is a fundamental governance problem. This study used a review approach to critically interrogate the political economy of the allocation of environmental jurisdictions among the Zimbabwean state, local communities and Rural District Councils through the conferment, to the latter, of the authority to enact conservation and land use planning by-laws. The subsidiary aim was to investigate, through afield study, the practical operation of the by-laws in everyday social life, in an analysis that situates the effectiveness of the by-laws within the theme of proximity to citizens. Several flaws and contradictions are evident in the political economy of the allocation of authority and responsibility among the above actors. Assignment of the responsibilities is framed within a top-down structure in which entrustments are transferred solely to Rural District Councils at the expense of other levels of social organization, particularly those close to the citizens. Although parent legislation allocates broad powers to Rural District Councils, monitoring of the effectiveness of such allocations is done on the basis of whether the governance arrangements deliver on the state’s goals, and not on local people’s goals and aspirations. But there is not much scope for communities to effectively participate in governance at the Rural District Council level. There also is not much scope in parent legislation for revising these governance arrangements, with higher level actors enjoying the prerogative to effect amendments, and not the communities. Governance arrangements fostered by the by-laws punish citizens for not respecting arrangements that the citizens do not effectively participate in crafting. Revenues accruing from fines imposed on people violating such arrangements accrue to the Rural District Councils, and not to the communities from which they are extracted. The study argues for innovative governance approaches that entail fundamental changes in by-law articulation.