Tanzania: CSOs in Tanzania Raise Alarm Over Law Changes

Dodoma — Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) from across the country have reacted with suspicion to the government's plan to amend eight laws, saying the changes will curtail their operations and put their existence in jeopardy.

Representatives from 30 CSOs have described the plan as 'a dark cloud' in Tanzania's development endeavours.

If passed, the amendments will see swift changes on registration and undertakings of NGOs, companies and civil societies, among others

The changes are contained in a bill of miscellaneous amendments No 3 of 2019 in which the government seeks to draw a clear definition and meaning (and therefore operations) of a company on one side and an NGO and a Society on the other.

The executive director for the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) Anna Henga told journalist in Dodoma yesterday that "no single NGO in will be safe in Tanzania if the amendments are approved as proposed."

She asked the government to give stakeholders between six and 36 months to prepare a better law.

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Executive Director of Twaweza, Mr Aidan Eyakuze, said although there are some positive aspects in the amendments, the implementation of the envisaged law should be something of great concern.

"This is why we needed time before the amendments reached this stage. Some of the sections even go as far as restricting people's rights to freedom of expression.

"Some of the sections may create problems even in government because within two months they will have de-registered some of the NGOs which are here to help the needy,"said the embattled NGO executive.

HakiElimu head of programmes, Mr Godfrey Boniventura expressed doubt why the the amendments were being processed under certificate of urgency.

The planned changes have also drawn criticism from international organisation. The Amnesty International said the proposed amendments would restrict the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, including placing impermissible restrictions on CSOs and entrenching censorship.

"The Tanzania government must allow for meaningful participation in law making processes by giving people adequate time to review, collate and present their views on a law that will impact their lives enormously," Amnesty International deputy regional director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes, Sarah Jackson.

The amendments will affect the Companies Act, the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act, the Films and Stage Plays Act, the NGOs Act , the Societies Act, the Statistics Act the Tanzanian Shipping Agencies, Act and the Trustees' Incorporation Act.

While keeping the respective legislative pieces, the amendments - which were made public earlier this week - will widen the scope of the functions and duties of the Registrar of NGOs to include the ability to suspend operation of an NGO that will seen to operate contrary to the provisions of the Act.

"The Registrar of NGOs is also empowered to conduct evaluation of the activities carried out by an NGO. The additional of section 4A is intended to give the Registrar investigative powers.," reads part of the amendments as presented by the Attorney General, Prof Adelardus Kilangi.

Under the proposed amendments, every NGO will be required to make available to the public the prepared annual audited reports. "Amendment of section 31 requires the NGOs to have a duty to adhere to the principles of financial transparency and accountability," the statement reads.

The amendments also seek to formalize the informal video exhibiting centres and create a new revenue stream for the government, through the Tanzania Film Board (TFB).

A new section is also introduced in the Films and Stage Plays Act requiring any foreign production company or individual using Tanzania scene to submit the content to TFB or any other authority appointed by the board for verification before publication.

"This Part introduces a new section 6A which requires any foreign production company or individual using Tanzania scene, content and location for filming whole or any part of a film, advertisement, documentary or program to submit to Tanzania Film Board raw footage, acknowledge all physical locations used for filming; submit a copy of a finished film, advertisement, documentary or program, and sign a prescribed clearance form before exiting Tanzania," the statement reads. The Board shall obtain profit returns from foreign film production companies or individuals.

The amendments to the Statistics Act seek to come up with a new definition of "non-official information" in the endeavor to elaborate the type of information gathered through surveys and censuses whose dissemination require consultation with the Statistician General before they are disseminated.

"The definition of "survey" is intended to clear confusion that was caused by the previous definition and to clearly state the scope of surveys whose results need consultation with the Statistician General before they disseminated to the public," the statement reads.

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