Monday, December 30, 2013

Tanzania to start prosecuting piracy cases

Pirate cases will now be prosecuted for hearing in Tanzania courts of law any time from now, the Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs Mathias Chikawe also an MP for Nachingwea (CCM) has said. Minister Chikawe said in an exclusive interview yesterday in Dar es Salaam when contacted him to clarify why such cases are not being prosecuted in the country. Instead victims of such cases are taken to the neighboring Kenyan country for prosecution, this paper also wanted to know what the way forward for the government is over the matter. In clarification, the minister noted that, the prosecution of the people caught and charged on piracy along the Indian Ocean waters off the country’s frontiers is an agreement between one country with the other before are taken before the court of law. Contrary to what is now going to be practiced in the country over the matter, formerly suspects on piracy along the Indian Ocean waters were being prosecuted in Kenya and in Seychelles, the two countries had an agreement on international conventions which Tanzania had not yet entered. The call by the minister is rather different from what had been previously reported in one of the local news media organ in the country that, ‘Tanzania had no law that could enable prosecute criminals charged on allegations of piracy in court once apprehended by police and navy patrolling officers along Indian Ocean waters bordering national frontiers’. Clarification by the minister indicates that, Tanzania had not yet entered into agreement with others its neighbors in the prosecution of hard core criminals on piracy once arrested practicing their mischief.  In recent years, there has been a series of pirates attack on Indian Ocean waters by Somali citizens believed to be Islamist insurgents who tend to hijack ships navigating along the confluence of Indian ocean water and the perpetrators have been demanding lots of money from the owners of the shipping companies for their survival. Piracy off the coast of Somalia has been a threat to international shipping since the second phase of the Somali Civil War in the early 21st century. Since 2005, many international organizations, including the International Maritime Organization and the World Food Program, have expressed concern over the rise in acts of piracy. Piracy has impeded the delivery of shipments and increased shipping expenses, costing an estimated $6.6 to $6.9 billion a year in global trade according to statistics report by Oceans beyond Piracy (OBP).

Tanzania's Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs Mr. Mathias Chikawe

According to the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), a veritable industry of profiteers has also risen around the piracy. Insurance companies, in particular, have profited from the pirate attacks, as insurance premiums have increased significantly.  A United Nations report and several news sources have suggested that piracy off the coast of Somalia was caused in part by illegal fishing.  According to the DIW and the U.S. House Armed Services Committee, the dumping of toxic waste in Somali waters by foreign vessels also severely constrained the ability of local fishermen to earn a living.  In response, the fishermen began forming armed groups to stop the foreign ships. They eventually turned to hijacking commercial vessels for ransom as an alternate source of income. In 2009, a survey by Wardheer News found that approximately 70 percent of the local coastal communities at the time "strongly supported the piracy as a form of national defense of the country's territorial waters. The pirates also believed that they were protecting their fishing grounds and exacting justice and compensation for the marine resources stolen. By the end of 2011, pirates managed to seize only four ships off of the coast of Somalia, 22 fewer than the 26 they had captured in each of the two previous years. They also attempted unsuccessful attacks on 52 other vessels, as of 18 October 2013, the pirates were holding 1 large ship and an estimated 50 hostages.  According to another source, there were 151 attacks on ships in 2011, compared with 127 in 2010 – but only 25 successful hijacks compared to 47 in 2010. Pirates held 10 vessels and 159 hostages in February 2012.  In 2011, pirates earned $146m, an average of $4.87m per ship. An estimated 3,000 to 5,000 pirates operated, by February 2012 1,000 had been captured and were legally prosecuted in 21 countries.

What transpired during the 14th Parliamentary debate session

Among the most surprising news which transpired in the just ended Parliamentary debating session last week is the resignation of four ministers. This came into being amid pressure by lawmakers on some violation of human rights and abuse of power by executives while carrying out a national anti-poaching campaign known as ‘Tokomeza’. Apart from this incident, there are some crucial matters which were discussed by Members of Parliament that focused the implications of the current national economic stand in a bid to ensure the ‘Big Results Now’. The following is a summary of what had transpired during a three week session. In this feature article, the writer has focused some of the most important matters which the Parliament discussed and proposed as directives for which the government has to adopt for the next development plans for the 2014/15 fiscal year. During the meeting, the MPs took time to ask a total of 170 basic questions and 458 supplementary questions which are normally carried out in early opening session, and all of these were answered by the government correctly. In addition to that, 17 basic questions and other 15 supplementary questions were instantly answered by the Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda carried out on every Tuesday and Thursday of a week long running session. Together with all these questions, the parliament also had accomplished successfully four major works it had to content with in line of its implementation program it had set for its 14th meeting. During the sessions, the Parliament discussed and approved the following, firstly the Referendum Bill 2013, secondly the MPs discussed nine standing parliamentary committees which stands for sector developments in the country. The Parliament also honored the late Nelson Mandela in a special session, it also had discussed and later accepted to review an emergency bill on the Excise Management and Tariff amendment Bill of the 2013. Members of Parliament also observed a one minute silence in honor of the departed South African first black President Nelson Mandela who passed away during the time when the parliament was in middle conducting its 14th session. Such interruption could not be avoided by the Speaker of the National Assembly Anne Makinda who allowed a debate and passed a resolution to hail Mandela’s life as a global leader. On the nine standing committees, these were the Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC), Local Authority Accounts Committee (LAAC), budgetary committee, Constitution, justice and good governance committee and the committee on Local government and Regional administration. Other committees were Community services, development committee, defense and security, Foreign Affairs and International relations, Economy, industry and trade as well as the committee which stand for the HIV/AIDS issues in the country. Other committees were infrastructure, energy and minerals, agriculture, livestock and water as well as land, natural resources and environment. The MPs discussion on the latter committee led to the resignation of the four ministers following a special investigative report which was carried out by the committee to investigate an ill fated operation of anti-poaching campaign instituted by the government, known as ‘Tokomeza’ to which their ministries were directly implicated. The report revealed systematic violations of human rights which occurred while implementing the exercise a result of which had caused public outcry of some of the misconduct during its operation. The findings of the report were tabled in Parliament by its committee chairman James Lembeli an MP for Kahama (CCM). After having read the report in the house last week in Friday, it had touched the hearts of lawmakers and observers alike who shared horrid tales of how the operation was conducted to systematically break down, torture and murder of innocent civilians mentioned in the report. The report revealed horrible incidents of human rights violations, including raping, sodomy, seizure of property, false cases in court and other abuses resulting into deaths and trauma especially among pastoralists.  

There was no means President Jakaya Kikwete could do top minimize the high pressure by lawmakers who jointly demanded for the resignation of the Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda, but after a long debate over the issue he came with a decision to sack from the office his four cabinet ministers. It is true that the President was sure to discipline his ministers for failing to effectively manage the infamous operation which was suspended indefinitely due to widespread claims by the people from where it went through. The ministers and their ministries in brackets are Khamis Kagasheki (Natural Resources and Tourism), David Mathayo (Livestock and Fisheries), Emmanuel Nchimbi (Home Affairs) and Shamsi Vuai Nahodha (Defense and National Service). Coming to other fascinating matters, the house had passed a referendum bill of 2013 which was tabled by the State Minister in the Prime Ministers’ Office (policy, coordination and parliamentary affairs) William Lukuvi. The bill which has now been enacted into a law will govern the referendum to be undertaken as part of a process to enable Tanzanians to write a new constitution which currently is in process of review. In reality, the referendum process empowers people to make democratic decision for the sake of improving good governance. Under the proposed law, the National Electoral Commission (NEC) and Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) will be mandated to manage the referendum on the new constitution following directives from the President of the United Republic of Tanzania in consultation with Zanzibar President. Minister Lukuvi pointed out that, the intended law will also provide for conditions in managing the referendum, and on voting process he said all Tanzanians aged 18 years and above and who have fulfilled conditions to be registered as voters will be eligible to be registered by NEC and ZEC and participate in the referendum. Another thing which transpired in parliament is the amendment of the Excise Management and Tariff amendment Bill 2013 of the Finance Act 2, which has eliminated the Tsh1000 charged on simcards per month and instead raising airtime taxation from 14.5 per cent to 17 per cent, after Deputy Finance Minister Saada Mkuya presented the two amendment proposals. The change follow sustained discussions between regulatory authorities and major communication firms after complaints were raised on taxing simcard use, instead of a graduated airtime use charge. Ms Mkuya said that the change would make users of electronic communications services to pay such tax according to amount of airtime use, starting early next month.  Amendments had to be made to take account of needs of the poor especially rural dwellers, thus removing the uniform rate of payment for users, to focus entirely on capacity of use.  “Whoever uses more services will pay more, and those who limit their use will also pay less,” the deputy minister said, without providing details on how the rates of payment would be manifested in the transactions. Another phenomenon is where the Parliamentary standing committee on Economy, industries and Commerce asked the government to put in place strategies which would help to reduce the alarming rates of tax exemptions which have been denying the government the much needed revenue. The report by the committee as it was tabled by its committee chairman Mahmoud Mgimwa (Mufindi North CCM) noted that, Tanzania leads in tax exemptions in East Africa region. He said tax exemptions in the country has reached 3.1 percent of the national income (GDP), exemptions in Kenya accounts for 1 percent of DGP and Uganda exemptions stands at 0.4 percent of GDP. The standing committee on parliamentary budget managed to show its value and its importance despite being new, its Chairman Andrew Chenge Bariadi west (CCM) noted when tabling the report on the implementation of activities that in its short span the committee has been able to persuade the government to increase budgetary allocations in some ministries during the coming 2014/15 fiscal year.

TRA in negotiation with agencies over EFDs

PLANS are underway by the government to review the high selling price rates for the Electronic Fiscal Devices (EFDs) which it had introduced to the targeted businesspeople and trading enterprises with higher working capital of between Sh. 14 million and over, The Guardian can authoritatively report. TRA’S Director for Taxpayer Services and Education Richard Kayombo said yesterday in Dar es Salaam that, the move is to make affordable price rates for such devices to quench the thirst of those who complained of their high costs. He said in an exclusive interview that, the government is doing negotiations with 11 companies which it had offered a legal tender to distribute the devices countrywide with a view to reduce their price costs. He named the agencies as Advatech Office Supplies Limited, Bolsto Solutions Limited, Business Machines Tanzania Limited, Checknocrats Tanzania Limited, Compulynx Tanzania Limited, Maxcom Africa Limited. Other companies Pergamon Group Limited, Power computers Telecommunication Limited, Soft Net Technologies Limited, Total Fiscal Solutions Limited, Web Technologies Tanzania Limited. He said the move is to minimize the arising chaos and complaints following the misunderstanding which rose among users when the devices were introduced for use in early November this year. He said that, a team of technical experts from TRA would meet with the distributing agencies  to discuss the cost of components so as to review the current price cost of Sh. 900,000 and make them saleable at least between Sh. 600,000 and Sh. 690,000 respectively. He said once the price rates are attained, still buyers of these machines would buy them by installments on agreed terms of payments therein, or they might acquire loan facilities from the financial institutions to settle down their payments. Meanwhile the government has reiterated its need to continue educating the basic use of these devices by highlighting their importance to the general public from village level to regional level through district councils. Kayombo noted that, the government does the work through seminars which currently is being conducted in various parts in the country, adding that, it is a continuous program through block management system which is being supported by the government targeting mostly to various community groups. When asked what actions they would take against people or enterprises which would defy the order of using the devices, he said that, there will be a series of warning three times and two reminders to be given within 14 days time. After that, he continued and noted that stern measures would be taken according to the law whereby the culprits would be charged 5 percent of the total amount of their collections for the first time.  On the second warning of defiance, a penalty of 10 percent would be imposed to defaulters and for the third time, serious penalties would be imposed including a fine of between Sh. 1 million and 3 million. This would be reinforced as per the Cap 104 of the subsection 2 of the TRA Act of revenue collection. In early November this year, business came to a standstill at Dar es Salaam’s Kariakoo main shopping market for both retrial and whole sale commodities as traders closed their stores protesting the use of Electronic Fiscal Devices (EFDs). Other up-country business people threatened to boycott trading to join their fellows who were protesting the price rates of the introduced devices brought to them by the government to buy that would regulate their financial accounting systems as such devices are designed to evaluate the amount of money for tax collections. Traders complained over the use which they said have adverse impacts on their businesses.

Monday, December 23, 2013

PM: There is a slight increase on food crop prices

Despite of the looming famine exacerbated by shortage of rains in some parts in the country, there has been a slight increase on food prices which has occurred in some regions in the country, Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda has said. The Premier was highlighting food situation of the last quarter of the year 2013 in the country to Members of Parliament on Saturday last week in Dodoma during his closing address speech of the 14th Parliamentary session which lasted for three weeks of the 15 working days. In his speech, he said that, despite of such increase, food situation in the country is not so bad, may be in some areas which have received bad harvests of food crops. The Premier noted that, the situation has caused the average food prices for rice and maize in most selling local markets in the country to slightly increase but not in less affordable rates. He noted that, the national maize price has increased from Sh. 526.86 a kilogram in October to Sh. 538.28 a kilogram in November 2013. This is an increase of 6 percent. On rice prices the Premier noted that, the national average price for this commodity has increased from Sh. 1,188.60 for a kilogram to Sh. 1,191.10 within the same trading period. This is an increase of 3 percent. Despite of slight increase in prices, still the current price rates of other food crops such as beans, potatoes and others could be fetched at a lower and affordable price rates to low income people, in comparison with last year’s trading period of between October and November of such food crops. In view of the situation whose trend looks not so bad, Premier Pinda has directed Regional Commissioners in the country whose regions have experienced abundant crop harvests to inform farmers in such regions to reserve enough food in future use for their families. He has also issued a directive that, they should sell the surplus in local market so as to reduce the inflating food prices as the situation in some towns and cities in the country is unpredictable. The Premier has also directed the district council’s executives to make sure that they have an overall control of the sale of food crops from farmers in their areas in a bid to prevent unscrupulous traders who might cause high inflation which might result into food shortages. In this way however, the Premier noted that, with such effective measures if taken, would ensure the availability of food in abundance in most parts in the country. Evaluations on food and nutrition which was done between October and November 2013 in areas already faced by food insecurity in the country has shown that, the total number of 828,063 citizens are faced with acute food shortages in the country, and are in need of about 23,312 tones of food as up to February 2014. Either between July and November 2013 the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) has set aside a total of 16,119 tones of food to be distributed to respective various district councils which are in need of such food in the country. Up to 16th December this year, out of this, a total of 13, 716 tones of such food had already been taken by almost all district councils in the country, only the remaining 2,402 tones of food stock which are not yet taken by 5 district councils namely Mwanga, Babati, Igunga, Mpwapwa and Manyoni. Premier Pinda has called upon the executives of the authorities concerned of the said district councils to make sure that, they collect their allocated tones of food for their people within their jurisdiction by 15th January 2014. Or else the Premier has cautioned, legal actions would be taken against any who shall have defied the order. Otherwise, the Premier noted that the government has reiterated its commitment to continue doing all it can in order to ensure the availability of food in various districts which seems to be facing food insecurity.