In Zimbabwe, like in many other parts of the world, local authorities and governments are battling with the question of how to respond to the changes brought by COVID19. From questions around how people trade, to how they live and travel, the rules have changed faster than most could have ever anticipated.
Before COVID-19, cities were already facing the question of how to respond to growing populations in urban areas. Populations were growing faster than infrastructure and laws could keep up, leaving millions of people vulnerable to economic shocks, disease outbreaks and the impact of climate change. The COVID19 pandemic has revealed the need to modernise by-laws, to help cities respond quicker to such shocks.
In 2019, the Government of Zimbabwe commissioned a study on the state of by-laws, as part of efforts to improve urban resilience. The study was conducted by the Development Governance Institute (DEGI) with support from UNICEF and UNDP.
Drawing on local and regional cases, the study found that Municipal by-laws were important for regulating socio-economic activities, which impact citizens’ access to basic services and economic opportunities. As such, they need to be relevant and up to date or cities may experience an urban deficit. The commissioned urban resilience study recommends that communities undertake participatory by-law making. By involving communities, the by-laws that are effected, will be relevant to their needs.
“With the Participatory By-law Making Model’ (PBMM) individuals will make better-informed contributions based on engaged and active citizenship principles embedded in the model. The improved knowledge of how local governance decisions are made and affect their welfare will enhance co-governance or cooperation with Local Authorities, in the process creating a sustainable basis for building local resilience.” - DEGI Development Researcher and Consultant, Kudzai Chatiza.
DEGI has begun work with the Ministry of Local Government and the Forum of Chamber Secretaries focused on two of the three pilot Municipalities, Gwanda and Chipinge.