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Govt Asks High Court to Drop Suit on Mobile Money Transaction Levy

Solicitor General tells Ana Henga to challenge the levy herself as an individual and not hiding behind LHRC

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Dar es Salaam. The Solicitor General Mr Gabriel Malata told the High Court in Dar es Salaam on Monday that it needs to drop the case filed at the court by the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) that challenges the recently introduced mobile money transaction levy that continues to face criticism from the public.

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.

LHRC, a local human rights organization, filed case number 11 of 2021 on July 27, 202, 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. The case was brought for hearing for the first time on August 5, 2021, and resumed on Monday, August 16, 2021.

Presenting the government’s defence on Monday, Mr Malata told the High Court that Ms Ana Henga, LHRC Executive Director, who has sworn an affidavit to support the application, has no mandate to take such legal action on behalf of the Centre without being sanctioned by the Board, according to the government-owned Daily News newspaper.

The Solicitor General told the court that if Ms Henga was so aggrieved with the respondents’ action, she could on her own have taken the court action instead of hiding behind the LHRC. Mr Malata added that though Ms Henga has indicated that she is among subscribers of several mobile phones and that has been transacting money on various occasions, “it was the position of the Solicitor General that she ought to have indicated evidence how she has been affected,” the paper quoted the Solicitor General as saying.

On June 10, 2020, the parliament amended the Basic Rights and Duties Enforcement Act to narrow the criteria for legal standing to challenge a law or policy that allegedly violates the constitution’s bill of rights. This meant that from there on anyone wanting to bring a legal case has to establish how a violation has “affected them personally.” Rights groups then criticized the amendments, saying they risk precluding groups from filing cases on behalf of victims – something that before the changes was normal – that raise important public interest issues, unless they can show they too are direct victims.

Mr Mpale Mpoki, who is representing LHRC in the case, defended the affidavit in support of the application, saying it clearly indicates some evidence that shows that Ms Henga is a subscriber to various mobile phones, proving that she has personally been affected by the levy, Daily News newspaper reported on Monday. 

After listening to the arguments of both parties, The case is expected to resume on September 8, 2021.

Following the backlash triggered by the introduction of the levy, President Samia Suluhu Hassan said on July 27, 2021, that she had 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 today, 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.

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