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The Chanzo Morning Briefing – August 9, 2021.

Pressure mounts on President Samia to drop terrorism charges against Mbowe; Two cases filed at High Court to challenge controversial mobile money transaction levy; and Tanzania: Over 100,000 people inoculated against COVID-19. 

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Dar es Salaam. Good morning! The Chanzo is here with a rundown of major news stories reported in Tanzania over the weekend.

Pressure mounts on President Samia to drop terrorism charges against Mbowe

CHADEMA and ACT-Wazalendo, Tanzania’s two main opposition parties, said during separate press conferences over the weekend that authorities do not have any other reason for holding CHADEMA national chairperson Mr Freeman Mbowe over “spurious terrorism charges” apart from seeking to weaken the country’s political opposition, warning that the move does not portend well for Tanzania’s unity and democracy.

Mr Mbowe was brought before the Kisutu Resident Magistrate Court for the first time on July 26, 2021, accused of taking part in conspiracies to blow up fueling stations and other public gatherings as well as funding terrorist acts. The opposition figure’s case was postponed until August 13, 2021, when it was brought for hearing on August 6. CHADEMA denies all the charges directed against its national chairperson, calling them “trumped-up” and “politically motivated.”

“I urge President [Samia] to intervene in this political issue [the arrest of Mr Mbowe] through political means,” Zitto Kabwe, ACT-Wazalendo party leader, said yesterday in Zanzibar. He was speaking ahead of the party’s Central Committee meeting that is taking place in the semi-autonomous archipelago. Kabwe urged Samia to reject the temptations to lead with an iron fist, saying the Head of State should reject such advice from her assistants.

“I’m pleading with President Samia to intervene and make sure Mr Mbowe is released and charges against him dropped before matters get worse,” said Kabwe during his address. “We know [President Samia] can do it. We know that if she wills it she can stop the ongoing persecution against Mr Mbowe.”

Although constitutionally Samia is prevented from intervening in a case that is already in court, past experiences, including the release of the Muslim clerics commonly referred to as Uamsho and many other cases, show that the Head of State can do that through engagement with the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP).

Meanwhile, CHADEMA Deputy Secretary-General (Tanzania Mainland) Mr Benson Kigaila said during a press conference on Saturday that authorities have got every reason to drop the charges against Mr Mbowe because the entire procedures – from his arrest to when he was brought to court – indicate an “ill will” that the police have against Mr Mbowe.

“When President Samia Suluhu Hassan was sworn in, she said that she does not want to see people accused of trumped-up charges,” Mr Kigaila said during the press conference in Dar es Salaam. He was refuting the police’s claims that the charges against Mr Mbowe aren’t made up. “[The government] dismissed more than 140 cases. Who brought these charges against these people, is it not the police?”

Two cases filed at High Court to challenge controversial mobile money transaction levy

At least two cases have been filed at the High Court in Dar es Salaam challenging the recently introduced mobile money transaction levy that continues to receive criticisms for being unfair to people using mobile money services in Tanzania as well as for being ‘extortionist.’ Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) and human rights activist Odero Charles Odero have filed the cases separately calling for the levies to be quashed.

The levy, together with that on airtime, were introduced as part of the government strategy to finance its Sh36.6 trillion budget for the 2021/2022 financial year, with a total of Sh1.65 trillion expected to be collected from them. The mobile money transaction levy became operational on July 15, 2021, following an amendment of the Finance Act, 2021.

Facing a backlash, President Samia Suluhu Hassan said on July 27, 2021, that she has formed a committee to analyze people’s complaints about the levy, adding that any government’s decision on the controversial levy will be based on the committee’s recommendations. But as of yesterday, the Tanzanian public had not been updated on the committee’s progress and it is not clear when exactly will President Samia act on the recommendations from the committee.

“On July 27, 2021, [LHRC] filed case number 11 of 2021 to apply for a Supreme Court Review (Judicial Review) on the National Payments System Act Cap. 437 plus its regulations that impose levies on financial transactions by mobile phone,” an August 6-statement by the local human rights organization signed by its Executive Director Anna Henga said. The case was brought for hearing for the first time on August 5, 2021, and is expected to resume on August 16, 2021.

Meanwhile, the case by Mr Odero will be brought for mentioning for the first time on August 12, 2021, with the rights activist pleading with Tanzanians “to support me morally and materially in accomplishing the withdrawal or reduction of [the mobile money transaction] levy.” John Seka, the famous lawyer and former president of the Tanganyika Law Society (TLS), represents Mr Odero in the case against Finance Minister Mwigulu Nchemba and Attorney General Adelardus Kilangi.

Tanzania: Over 100,000 people inoculated against COVID-19

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health Professor Abel Makubi said Sunday that since the government rolled out its COVID-19 vaccination program on August 3, 2021, a total of 105, 745 people from the targeted groups, which include people with underlying health conditions, healthcare workers and the elderly, have been vaccinated.

Prof Makubi made the revelations while briefing the public on the development of the government’s distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. The government’s plan is to inoculate at least 35 million people or 60 per cent of the population. The U.S. government had donated the vaccines to Tanzania through the World Health Organization’s (WHO) COVAX initiative, the global vaccine-sharing facility that the East African nation requested to join in mid-June this year.

“I would like to assure the public that all registration and certification information for those who have been vaccinated is written in books but later the information will be transferred to the electronic system,” said the PS while briefing reporters in Dar es Salaam. “I instruct that there should be no reason for the targeted groups to miss or be denied the vaccines. If it is a matter of IDs, then local governments should help identify these people, especially the elderly.”

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