Union@59: A match made in heaven

AS the historic Union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar which formed Tanzania clocks 59 years, citizens from both sides have a lot to celebrate, notably the resolving of contentious issues which has strengthened a national bonding.

Vexes in the Union are issues that have arisen in various sectors/institutions of the Union or non-Union and have hampered the implementation of several initiatives.

In addressing the vexes, both the United Republic of Tanzania (URT) and the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar have adopted open and independent procedures for holding joint meetings.

These sessions are conducted by the Joint Committee (JC) for dealing with Union issues. Before the committee was formed in 2005, the government was resolving matters through various commissions and committees for investigating issues and recommending appropriate measures.

Since the formation of JC, many contentious issues have been discussed, resolved, and removed from the list of Union vexes.

Tabling the budget estimates for his docket for the 2023/2024 financial year, the Minister of State in the Vice-President’s Office (Union and Environment), Dr Selemani Jafo told the National Assembly that it was so impressive that as the nation celebrates its 59th anniversary of Union, only four contentious matters remain.

“We have made significant progress in resolving the vexes, for which we are grateful, and we anticipate that in the near future, we will resolve the remaining ones aimed at strengthening the union,” he said.

Minister Jafo said in the joint meetings held in the 2022/2023 financial year; eight issues were discussed of which four of them were resolved and removed from the union vexes.

They include complaints by Zanzibar’s traders on double taxation on pay-as-you-earn (PAYE) and withholding tax.

Others are complaints from the Zanzibar Electric Company (ZECO) on skyrocketing utility charges from the Tanzania Electric Supply Company Limited (TANESCO) and a loan agreement for financing the project for the construction of Terminal III of the Abeid Amani Karume International Airport.

The Union’s contentious matters resolved include the implementation of the Act of the Commission on Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRAGG), in which Chapter 391 administered by the commission was not implemented in Zanzibar. As a result, in October 2006, the Act was amended to allow the Commission to work on both sides of the Union.

Others are the Implementation of the Merchant Shipping Act and Zanzibar’s ability to join the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), Zanzibar’s participation in the East African Community (EAC) and the RGZ’s involvement in international and regional issues.

Here, the Zanzibar government presented eight development projects for inclusion in the regional projects implemented in EAC.

Four of the eight regional projects were prioritised for the preparation of the project documentation, architecture and cost assessment ready for funding. Implementation of Pemba Airport and Mpigaduri/Maruhubi port projects that the Isles government wanted to be financed under the EAC arrangement had been funded through other sources.

There was also a convention on how to share revenue from the potential oil and natural gas extraction. But after negotiations, the two governments decided to bring into play the Aberdeen University Petroleum and Economic Consultants (AUPEC) consultant from Britain to provide technical advice on the distribution of the resource revenue. AUPEC Company completed the work and proposals were submitted to the governments.

Eventually, the Petroleum Act No. 21 of 2015 was enacted and gave Zanzibar the authority to establish an instrument to manage petroleum activities and natural gas issues. In September 2016, Zanzibar’s Ministry of Lands, Housing, Water and Energy formulated the Zanzibar Oil and Gas (Upstream) Policy that, among other things, acknowledged the existing gap regarding manpower, legal and institutional framework.

The landing fee at Dar es Salaam cargo port from Zanzibar was another contentious issue, as it was argued that it was high (11,000/-) while the fee for cargo imported from abroad was low (4,000/-).

According to the Tariff Book of Port Dues and Charges of April 2013 approved by the Surface and Marine Transport Regulatory Authority (SUMATRA), the rates charged for cargo from Zanzibar were lower than the rates charged for imported goods into Tanzania Mainland or cargo from other countries via Dar es Salaam Port to another country.

Other Union matters included the loan agreement for the construction of the Chake Chake-Wete Road in Pemba and supervision of the formulae and tax collection in telephone services being undertaken by the Zanzibar Revenue Board (ZRB), revenue collected by the Zanzibar Immigration Department, the appointment of the vice-chairperson of the Tanzania Revenue Appeal Tribunal (TRAT) from Zanzibar as well as the appointment of a board member of the Deposit Insurance Board (DIB) from Zanzibar.

Minister Jafo further noted that, between July 2022 and March 2023 his office continued to monitor Union issues which were overseen by the ministry, institution and Union departments for mutual benefits.

Mr Jafo informed the National Assembly that of 33 Union institutions, 27 of them have offices in Zanzibar, thus moving the services closer to the people.

He said the achievements attained included identification and registration of citizens in all regions in Mainland and Zanzibar which was done by National Identification Authority (NIDA), provide accreditation for higher learning institutions in Mainland and Zanzibar and enrolment of undergraduate students at the universities through Tanzania commission for universities.

The remaining four issues being worked upon include the distribution of revenue from the Zanzibar shares in the East African Currency Board and the Bank of Tanzania profit, recommendations of the Joint Finance Commission, motor vehicles registration and importation of sugar produced in Zanzibar into the Mainland market.

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