Participatory Budgeting in the Town of Mutoko

Participatory Budgeting in the Town of Mutoko

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Problems and Purpose

Mutoko's adoption of Participatory Budgeting developed during the historic tensions of ethnic division and democratic suppression. In February, 1980 the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) party was victorious thereby securing the presidency for Robert Mugabe. However, mostly comprised of Shona heritage, the delegates failed to represent the diverse ethnic lineage of the Zimbabwean people, leading the Ndebele to revolting in Matabeleland (Western Zimbabwe) against what they believed to be ethnic segregation within politics. With inhumane suppression the government killed 20,000 people before the unification of both parties into the Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) stopped the civil war. The ZANU-PF under three decades of Mugabe rule has left a legacy of democratic stagnation, corruption and maladministration (Mlambo, 2014, p 194-230).

The main 'budgeting trigger' that caused the council to adopt PB were the continuous budgeting deficits which each year brought the Mutoko Citizens Association and the Informal Traders Association to demonstrate and boycott any additional taxation brought forward by the local authority (Mika, 2010, p 1-10). The purpose, therefore, of Mutoko's PB was, first, to provide better input by the locals within the actions of the budgetary cycle. Second, it's establishment was meant to limit and reduce the protesting that the local authority has had to handle yearly prior to 2001. Experimentally introduced to several other towns within Zimbabwe, the third issue addressed by decentralising budgeting within Mutoko was the fear of ethnic cleansing within Zimbabwean politics. By involving the general public and village leaders the Government of Zimbabwe and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) hoped that PB would heal the enduring ethnic tensions in Mumvuma, 2009, p 157-174).

Originating Entities and Funding

The two main entities of Mutoko's PB are the government's Ministries of Local Government, Public Works, National Housing and Finance and Economic Development along with USAID. The Zimbabwean Government supplies the Mutoko Rural District Council with up to USD$ 180,000 (Gideon and Alouis, 2013, p 237) of which 74% (USD$ 133,200) is up for discussion within the budgetary cycle. Part of the Long Term Plan for Local Governance the Pilot Programme on Developing Local Governance in Zimbabwe (PPLG) is the originating legislation that brought PB to Mutoko. The Council took up PB fully within 2003 as they become part of the first  towns to test this type of governance in Zimbabwe. Facilitating this USAID has provided the technical support in the creation of public meetings, staffing and strengthening the institutional ability of the Mutoko Rural District Council.

Structure of Mutoko's Participatory Budgeting 

1.     Information Collection

The first stage of Mutoko's participatory budget starts with local authority staff gathering information on the previous year's audited results, performance for the half year and project performance, capital projects and projections to year-end. This financial information is then collated to be produced to the Councillor's Deliberation of the Annual Financial Budget within the second stage.

2.     Councillors Deliberation

Councillors use the previous stage's information to deliberate on the budget both in regards to central budget guidelines and intergovernmental fiscal transfers. Then they set project priorities with the finance and executive committees helping working this within local budget guidelines which are then adopted.

3.     Village Meetings

Thirdly this stage brings in grassroots activism as individual villages are set as the starting point for consultative meetings. Beforehand a meeting is announced by messengers going through the village or by a drum the previous morning. In this citizens are allowed to address their issues with the budget information given to them by the Council. These issues will then be noted and the presented at the next stage.

4.     Village Development Committee

A group of 4 to 6 villages come together within this meeting to reconsolidate issues brought up within the previous stage. In this a Chairperson is chosen and are expected to facilitate the process by categorising dominate issues. This starts to move away from the informal facilitation at the village level to help address the number of participants that could attend this stage (upwards of 1,200 people).

5.     Ward Development Committee

With 30 villages in a ward this committee aims at introducing grassroots issues with the issues of other agents. All of the citizens of the ward may attended but roughly 500 of 6,000 actually turn up for the discussion. Along with this line Ministers, civil society organisations, NGOs, traditional chiefs and political parties are part of this committee to also discuss their needs within the budget. The primary figures are the Chairpersons of the various Village Development Committee that debate with the other agents in which the Ward's Councillor heads the discussion.

Within Mutoko's PB it has been incorporated that stakeholders (e.g. church leaders, businesses, NGOs) may participate if they register. This Ward Development Committee is the first stage of the PB in which stakeholders may express their opinion if registered within the Council's system. 

6.     Stakeholder Budget Consultation Meeting

Sixthly the local authority then invites all of the registered stakeholders to a consultative meeting on the budget with the Councillors. In this the Councillors are also given time to consult with both the Ward and Village Development Committees so that their interests are still represented. In this the local authority then give details of the previous budget performance which stakeholders then give input onto to highlight potential areas in which tariffs might be increased sustainably.

After this they also elect amongst themselves the next committee members for the Participatory Budgeting Action Committee in which to finalise the budget. They are formed of popularly elected Council members, civil society representatives and other agents in which help to form a representative body of the community of Mutoko.  

7.     Participatory Budgeting Action Committee

The criteria for being elected for this committee is largely subjective to ability to understanding budget issues. 6 members of a management team are present to help facilitate budget issues along within 5 Councillors, 4 civil society representatives, 2 banking representatives, 2 private sector representatives, 1 district administrator, 1 traditional chief, 1 chief executive officer and 1 council chairperson (highest ranking Councillor of 6 Councillors, of which 5 remain as normal committee members). "The committee works with the chief finance officer and the chairman of [the] Finance Committee to craft the finer details of the budget" (UN-HABITAT, 2008, p 58) to produce a draft budget for the next stage.

8.     Internal Budget Review/ Policy-fit Meeting

This eighth stage calls for a full council meeting to scrutinise the budget that has been created so far from village-ward, stakeholders and other agents. Open to the public this meeting is also attended by the 4 traditional chiefs, NGO's and other stakeholder agents. 

9.     Stakeholder Consultation Meetings

The Participatory Budgeting Action Committee then reports this deliberated budget to the Stakeholder Budget Consultation Meeting in which the year's budget is established.

10. Neighbourhood Budget Consultations and Priority Setting

Using this draft budget village consultations are then approved with members of the Participatory Budgeting Action Committee helping to facilitate ward Councillors in presenting the budget for inspection and alterations. The meetings are recorded to help the Participatory Budgeting Action Committee make any amendments that the villagers have suggested into a final budget.

11. Finalisation of Budget Approval

This budget is then given to a full sitting of the Council in which the Management Committee can approve the budget. This can also be attended by the public.

12. Budget Advertisement

The final budget proposal is then given to two local/ national newspapers to be advertised in which asks for the public to scrutinise the budget and send feedback via calling and/or posting. A period of time is set on this and then once it is over the Council considers the points make on the budget.

13. Policy Reconsideration and Budget Approval

Once these points are made a Council meeting is held to officially read out changes to the budget and propose it to the central government for confirmation.

14. Ministerial Formalities

The budget is then sent to the Minister of Local Government in which it is read and approved in some circumstances, however it is unclear to what events require it to be sent to this Ministry and which do not.

15. Budget Implementation

This stage revolves around the payment for projects that have been issued throughout the PB structure and the recording of data to be used within the next cycle of budgeting.

16. Budget Monitoring and Reviews

In this last stage of Mutoko's PB the citizens of the town are kept informed through budget monitoring by the local authority which holds village meetings to discuss how the budget is progressing in regards to both costs and problems of projects within the town. Citizens are also encourage to view the projects for themselves to help monitor the project implementation.

Participant Selection

Mutoko's PB is structured within a 16 stage system in which differing methods of participant selection have been embedded into it. This innovation does not centre itself on a specific body (e.g. a citizens assembly) but rather an intricately layered system that pools the complex social structure of Mutoko to produce a popular budget in the sense of mass participation. Due to this there is not one but several methods of participant selection to reflect on who is participating at any given time within this staggered budgeting process. Below Table 1 highlights the corresponding selection method in relation to the stage of the process.


[1] UN-HABITAT (2008). Participatory Budgeting In Africa: A Training Companion With Cases From Eastern and Southern Africa. Volume II: Facilitation Methods. p 57-59

[2] Municipal Development Partnership for Eastern and Southern Africa (2007) Africa Good Governance Programme on the Radio Waves Municipal Finance Programme Part 7A African Experiences in Participatory Budgeting, Impacts and Lessons Learnt Case Study.

Influence, Outcomes, and Effects

The use of PB within Mutoko has had its greatest impact on the relationships between ordinary citizens and the Council's decisions regard the Mutoko itself. With a wider understanding a depth of access points for citizens to participate in PB has decreased the civil unrest as the budget of the town is now widely reported and actively debated upon.

Along with this interest groups such as businesses and women in politics are now having their voice championed within the system due to multilayered structure of the PB which does not only act for the interrelationships of citizens and the Council but also involves stakeholders. More transparent they are now able to work with the Council to introduce budgets more symbiotic with the productions of the town. As such one of the projects introduced was a Agro-Mineral Industrialisation that aims to both increase employment and subsequently the money raised for the next year's budget through taxation of business/ citizens (Mika, 2010, p 23-26).

However two significant problems have arisen, the vetoing power of central government and stakeholder bias/ Elitism. The structure of Mutoko's PB offers little in terms of direct budgeting by citizens but is rather a consultation of citizens and interest groups who's priorities are fed into the Councils overarching decision. Although citizens are given a chance to rectify this there is no institutionalised system in which gives the general public the final say but focuses on a committee voted for by another committee and the interests of the Councillors themselves. This may have helped social ties amongst citizens but, with voter apathy still a problem within the town, the extent to which is provides citizens direct control of the budget is limited (Sintomer, Y et al, 2010, p 50).

Also, dependent on the budgeting of central Ministry of Local Government the funding provide to Mutoko is very much susceptive to political events within Zimbabwean central politics."Where a local authority depends on central government allocation, the degree of autonomy is usually less as the important decisions on use of funds tend to be made at the centre [of Zimbabwean government]" (Gideon and Alouis, 2013, p 237). This undermines the whole project of bringing PB to Mutoko and is one of the biggest flaws within the project itself as the degree to which (touched upon within stage 14 of 'Structure of Mutoko's Participatory Budget') the Ministry of Local Government can interfere is unknown.   

Analysis and Lessons Learned

The participatory budgeting present within Mutoko, like most other case studies on PB, is in a hybrid form relative to that of the Porto Alegre case that is seen as the epicentre for bringing this innovation into scholarly review. Budgeting wise Mutoko offers something closer to Porto Alegre as all of the budget of the council (minus government salaries) is open to the process.

European or North American counterparts offer much less in terms of budget size as the innovation has been introduced into countries while retain their budgeting sovereignty within central government. This could reflect on the causes for bring such innovations in, whereas European/N. American countries have implemented to appease voter apathy the Mutoko case involves trying to tackle voters' concerns over corruption within government (Allegretti and Herzberg, 2004, p 2-6).

Therefore a significant amount of the budget was need to be placed within the participatory process to counter the remnants of corrupt bureaucracy which was uncalled for by voter groups within Europe/N. America as corruption is relatively lower. However similarly the structure of Mutoko PB is one of consultation rather than active assembly voting. Constructed via the World Bank and USAID correspondents this follows a mindset of Western governments that only specialised individuals (e.g. politicians, accountants) should be given the final say in public budgeting. Schumpeter aligns this in that democracy is not there for the will of the people but to mitigate political power among the elite. He would argue that this situation where the people ultimately have no decision is in keeping with Western ideals of representative democracy. This could help to explain why, after participatory budgeting was introduced in Mutoko, voter apathy remained a problem within the town as it did when similar watered down versions were introduced elsewhere (Pateman, 1970, p 1-21).

This failure to provide a platform in which all town participants, not just the local elite, can contribute is highlighted within the counter of Schumpeter - Pateman. She agrees with Schumpeter that the political system is one of (defined by Dahl) polyarchical political groups. However she believes that if the psychological and environmental factors are changed then a space can be created for the public to be educated and so produce informed decisions. She would critique his 'classical theory' that voter apathy is not to do with inability but rather repulsion to a system that is seen as politically stagnant. This highlights the institutional framework is similarly flawed as Western case studies such as Sutton PB in that they don't engage to reduce political elitism (Pateman, 1970, p 1-21). 

This voter apathy that still propagates within Mutoko might have been subsided if the structure did not focus still on consent from central government for the budget but rather an initiative focused on direct citizen assent, like the assembly that Porto Alegre experiences. With hindsight many democratic innovations might contribute to a smoother political system within Mutoko in relation to citizen participation. However, reflecting on Zimbabwe's development, it is a significant step towards citizenry governance that many other nations have not committed to budgetary wise. In this Mutoko stands in trying to deliver a system that engages voters to participate.


Allegretti, G and Herzberg, C (2004) Participatory Budgets in Europe. Between Efficiency and Growing Local Democracy. New Politics Project. Amsterdam: Transnational Institute and the Centre for Democratic Policy-Making.

Gideon, Z and Alouis, C (2013) The Challenges of Self-Financing in Local Authorities The Case of Zimbabwe. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science. 3 (11) Zimbabwe: IJHSS.

Mlambo, A (2014). A History of Zimbabwe. Cambridge: CUP. 

Mika, J (2010) Sub National experiences of civic participation in policy making and budgetary processes: A case study of Mutoko Rural District Council, Zimbabwe. [Online] Washington D.C.: The Work Bank < [BROKEN LINK] (Accessed: 01/02/2015).

Multi-Level Government Initiative (2014) Rural District Councils Act [chapter 29:13]. South Africa: University of the Western Cape - Law Department.

Municipal Development Partnership for Eastern and Southern Africa (2007) Africa Good Governance Programme on the Radio Waves Municipal Finance Programme Part 7A African Experiences in Participatory Budgeting, Impacts and Lessons Learnt Case Study: Mutoko Rural District Zimbabwe. [Online] Nairobi: World Bank Institute. (Accessed 22/02/2015).

Municipal Development Partnership for Eastern and Southern Africa (2007) Africa Good Governance Programme on the Radio Waves Municipal Finance Programme Part 2 Participatory Budgeting. [Online] Nairobi: World Bank Institute. (Accessed 22/02/2015).

Mumvuma, T (2009). Building Political Will for Participatory Budgeting in Rural Zimbabwe: The Case of Mutoko Rural District Council. In: Malena, C. ed. From Political Won't To Political Will: Building Support for Participatory Budgeting in Rural Zimbabwe. Kumarian Press. 

Pateman, C (1970) Participation and Democratic Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sintomer, Y et al (2010) Learning from the south: Participatory Budgeting Worldwide - an Invitation to Global Cooperation. Global Dialogue. Germany: InWEnt gGmgH - Capacity Building International.

UN-HABITAT (2008). Participatory Budgeting In Africa: A Training Companion With Cases From Eastern and Southern Africa. Volume II: Facilitation Methods. Nairobi: Unon Publishing Station Services. 

UN-HABITAT (2008). Participatory Budgeting In Africa: A Training Companion With Cases From Eastern and Southern Africa. Volume I: Concepts and Principles. Nairobi: Unon Publishing Station Services.  

External Links

World Bank - Mutoko PB Case Study

Case Data


General Issue(s): 
Specific Topic(s): 


Mutoko Council Mutoko , ME
Mashonaland East ZW


What was the intended purpose?: 


Start Date: 
Friday, February 2, 2001
End Date: 
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Number of Meeting Days: 
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Who paid for the project or initiative?: 
Government of Zimbabwe
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Total Budget: 
US$180 000.00
Average Annual Budget: 
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Number of Full-Time Staff: 
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Number of Part-Time Staff: 
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