Dar es Salaam. Good morning! The Chanzo is here with a rundown of major news stories reported in Tanzania on Wednesday, August 31, 2021.
Govt to reduce controversial mobile money transaction levy by 30 per cent
President Samia Suluhu Hassan on Tuesday directed Finance and Planning Minister Mwigulu Nchemba and Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) Minister Faustine Ndugulile to review the mobile money transaction levy that has continued to face criticism from various quarters of Tanzania.
According to a statement released by ministry of finance spokesperson Mr Ben Mwaipaja, Dr Nchemba has already signed amendments of the regulations on the controversial levies that are going to reduce the levies charged by 30 per cent.
The statement added that the government has engaged the country’s mobile money operators on the issue who have all also agreed to the request of reducing the amount of charges they impose on people using mobile money transaction services by 10 per cent.
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.
Following the backlash triggered by the introduction of the levy, President Samia 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.
“The government believes that this decision will give citizens a relief [of life] as well as enabling it to collect revenues that would enable it to implement various developmental projects,” said Mr Mwaipaja in the statement.
“It is the government’s belief that citizens will support this decision as the levies collected have already produced tangible benefits to people, including the collection of Sh48.4 billion that are expected to fund the construction of 150 health centres and the completion of 560 classrooms across the country,” Mwaipaja added.
At least two cases are ongoing at the High Court in Dar es Salaam challenging the levy that critics have slapped as 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.
Then-chairperson of Tanzania Mobile Network Operators Association (TAMNOA) Mr Hisham Hendi revealed on July 19, 2021, that millions of people, especially those in rural parts of Tanzania, had stopped using mobile money services due to rising costs. Mr Hendi, then doubling as the CEO of Vodacom Tanzania Plc, called this phenomenon “a threat” to operators’ businesses.
“Revenue has dropped drastically because consumers are not using our services as they were in the beginning. The situation is not good,” Mr Hendi was quoted by the media as saying. He was speaking on behalf of other members of TAMNOA. “We believe the government will see this and take appropriate action because this tax affects business and hurts the people.”
Parliament ethics committee convicts Gwajima, Silaa
Parliamentary Privileges, Ethics and Powers Committee on Tuesday convicted two Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) lawmakers Josephat Gwajima (Kawe) and Jerry Silaa (Ukonga) of making false and degrading statements about the Parliament.
Mr Gwajima, who is also a pastor, has been banned from taking part in two parliamentary meetings consecutively while Mr Silaa has been ordered to apologize publicly.
On August 22, 2021, the Parliamentary Privileges, Ethics and Powers Committee ordered Mr Gwajima and Mr Silaa to appear before the committee to answer to various accusations leveled against them. Mr Gwajima appeared before the committee in Dodoma on August 23, 2021, while Mr Silaa’s turn was on August 24, 2021.
Mr Gwajima was interrogated about accusations he has made against government leaders that they have been bribed to allow importation of vaccines in Tanzania as well as other controversial opinions about vaccines and COVID-19 in general. These include claims that the COVID-19 vaccines that are being administered to Tanzanians are fake and inefficient.
Mr Silaa was questioned about a statement he made on July 23, 2021, during a political rally in Dar es Salaam that implied that Members of Parliament do not pay taxes, saying MPs should be paying taxes so that they can have the moral authority to tell their people to do the same.
Parliamentary Privileges, Ethics and Powers Committee chairperson Mr Emmanuel Mwakasaka told members of parliament on Tuesday that neither of the MPs was able to back their claims with evidence, calling on lawmakers to endorse the committee’s punishment against them.
Speaker of Parliament Job Ndugai urged other MPs to stop making unnecessary remarks, telling them to focus on “local politics.” He said: “This whole exercise was aimed at distancing the parliament from the actions of these MPs. [on Mr Gwajima], we expect the party [CCM] and the government to act on lawmakers’ recommendations [to hold Mr Gwajima to account].
On August 17, 2021, Health Minister Dr Dorothy Gwajima directed the police to arrest Mr Gwajima so that he can substantiate his claims that some senior government leaders have received bribes to allow the importation of COVID-19 vaccines into the country.
But Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Simon Sirro said the very same day that Dr Gwajima issued the directive that the police had not been officially informed about the arrest plan.
“Even if we receive the information we’ll examine [Mr Gwajima’s] remarks to see if they have any criminal elements,” IGP Sirro told Clouds FM’s Amplifaya program. “We might as well advice [Dr Gwajima and Bishop Gwajima] to resolve the matter through dialogue instead of using the police.”
High Court expected to rule over Mbowe’s case
The High Court’s Corruption and Economic Crimes Division is today, September 1, 2021, expected to rule whether or not the court can hear the economic sabotage case facing CHADEMA national chairperson Mr Freeman Mbowe and three others.
Today’s ruling follows objections raised by Mr Mbowe’s legal team that the division cannot hear the case because it concerns terrorism, demanding the court to take the case to a normal division of the High Court.
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.
He was arrested in Mwanza together with eleven other CHADEMA cadres — who have since been released — ahead of a New Constitution conference that the party’s Youth Wing (BAVICHA) had called and which Mr Mbowe was expected to be the guest of honour. Others in the case are Halfan Hassan, Adam Kasekwa and Mohamed Lingwenya.
The case was brought for the first time at the High Court on Monday under tight security, with most journalists banned from the courtroom by police.
Representatives from the UK and US embassies in Dar es Salaam were among those who attended the Monday’s hearing. ACT-Wazalendo party leader Zitto Kabwe and NCCR-Mageuzi national chairperson Mr James Mbatia also attended the case.
Peter Kibatala, who heads Mr Mbowe’s legal team, has argued that the High Court’s Corruption and Economic Crimes Division has no powers to hear the case. “The bottom line is that it cannot hear [the] terrorism case,” Mr Kibatala told reporters outside the court, calling for Mbowe to be freed.
State attorneys insisted that the court had “full authority” to handle the trial. The case against Mbowe and his three co-defendants was adjourned until today when the court said it would rule on the issue.
EWURA announces new cap prices for fuel
The Energy and Water Utilities Regulatory Authority (EWURA) yesterday published new cap prices for petroleum products that will be in effect from today, September 1, 2021.
The retail prices of petrol, diesel and kerosene in Dar es Salaam have increased by Sh84/Litre (equivalent to 3.47 per cent), Sh39/litre (equivalent to 1.74 per cent) and Sh18/litre (equivalent to 0.83 per cent) respectively.
Wholesale prices of petrol, diesel and kerosene have increased by Sh83.84/Litre (equivalent to 3.65 per cent), Sh39.05/litre (equivalent to 1.84 per cent) and Sh18.05/litre (equivalent to 0.88 per cent) respectively.
“EWURA shall continue to encourage competition in the sector by making available petroleum products pricing information including cap prices,” the multi-sectoral regulatory authority said in a statement. “This information on prices is intended to enable stakeholders to make informed decisions on petroleum prices at any particular time.”
It has demanded all petrol stations to publish petroleum product prices on clearly visible boards, saying the boards should clearly show prices charged, discounts offered as well as any trade incentives or promotions on offer.
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