Dar es Salaam. Are Tanzanians supportive or not of the mobile money transaction levies and the uses they are put into? Well, it depends on your reading of the latest Sauti za Wananchi findings published Thursday by a regional non-profit Twaweza.
Immediately after the findings were presented yesterday the war of arguments ensued between those who supported the levies and those who are vocals against it, throwing Twaweza – and its Executive Director Aidan Eyakuze in particular – at the heart of the argument, with each camp citing its findings to back up its conclusion.
A tweet by a ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM)-affiliated activist Abdulazack Abdul particularly – which at the time of writing had over 165 retweets, 353 likes and a whopping 531 replies – drove a wedge between anti-levy activists and Twaweza, with the former calling the latter a lot of names.
“Our survey found out that seven out of ten Tanzanians are happy about the levies,” the tweet said, quoting a statement purportedly made by Mr Eyakuze. “[Citizens] believe that this is the only way their nation can be able to finalize the construction of development projects.”
A startling finding, if true except it was not. The Chanzo read the whole report and could not find the statement anywhere. We also listened to entire Eyakue’s presentation during the presentation of the findings and could not hear him making such a conclusion.
Twaweza quickly stamped the tweet ‘FAKE’ stamp but the damage was already done. The tweet was already making rounds on all social media platforms with some showing the signs of taking it as the truth.
Fake news, experts say, spreads faster on social media than true stories. And it seems Twaweza is going to have some tough rides in trying to fight against that trend. It is impossible to imagine them winning anyway.
In a video posted on Instagram by Jay Maudaku, a popular gossip account with two million followers, Eyakuze is seen presenting his organisation’s findings on people’s perceptions of the mobile money levy where he says: “When given more information, citizens become more satisfied on how the levies are being used.”
This ‘when given more information’ part is missing in the headline that accompanied the video that by the time of writing had garnered over 2,687 likes and 570 comments.
But even if the missing part was included in the headline, still one would not be able to make sense of Twaweza’s 23-page summary of the findings by watching a less-than one-minute video.
Two issues were the scope of Twaweza’s latest Sauti za Wananchi, a nationally representative mobile phone survey that was carried out between October and November 2011 and June and July 2022: the economy and the controversial mobile money transaction levies.
On the economy, Twaweza said three main issues trouble the majority of Tanzanians: the rising cost of living (48 per cent), the lack of employment or income-earning activity (29 per cent) and hunger or the lack of food (26 per cent).
On the mobile money transaction levy, citizens’ views are varied, Twaweza found out. Most of them agree that the levy is an important way for the government to generate revenue (67 per cent) and that it ensures that everyone contributes to national development (63 per cent).
However, fewer agree that the levy will reduce dependence on donors (46 per cent) or that taxes on mobile money transactions are a good thing (43 per cent).
Twaweza also found out that most citizens would be (not are) more supportive of the levy if they had better information on how the revenue is spent. A majority (63 per cent) say they would be (not are) more willing to pay the levy if they could track how the funds are spent.
It seems that some Tanzanians got lost in the forest of linguistics and now Twaweza are paying a heavy price for that.