Taxation is an idea I like; it’s tax redistribution that’s a problem

Saturday April 13 2024
Bagamoyo road in Dar , Tanzania

Motorists drive along Bagamoyo Road in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. PHOTO | HERMAN EMMANUEL | XINHUA


Few things can deepen a meditation on the nature of the State and governance quite like a yearly invitation to hand over a share of one’s alleged income in the form of taxation.

I remain some kind of leftist at heart, if we are stuck together in this late-stage capitalist hellscape, we might as well try to beef up our collective welfare by contributing to the communal kitty.

Share and share alike, right? I like the idea of taxes, imagine. My problem is the matter of redistribution, which is where I run face-first into the government of Tanzania’s modus operandi. You’d think that with a fine political pedigree of Ujamaa and Pan-Africanism, we would have a solid grasp of this “sharing” thing, but alas.

Tanzania. We were a colony, we achieved independence, we united. We were poor and then the commodities markets crashed and we had a war and we did Ujamaa and the economy floundered. Bretton Woods, neoliberalism, bada bing bada boom here we are in 2024 as a middle-income country, apparently.

Read: ULIMWENGU: In Tanzania, gravy trains come special

All of this achieved with the “same” political party in power unchallenged over sixty years. I say “same” because of course the Grand Old Party has evolved over time, like anything else that is alive.


There is a great debate lurking in the pros and cons of this phenomenon, but what I am interested in is how we became a nation in which the government has become economically decadent.

There is nothing like waiting for your share ride outside an official event crusted with government people, listening to the drone of their massive airconditioned cars as you contemplate the revenue service’s invitation for you to discuss your alleged income for tax purposes.

Taxes for what?

It certainly doesn’t help when you’ve also taken a glance at some of the quick summaries of the recent Comptroller and Auditor General report that was released during a time of important international football fixtures.

It’s not that we are stupid enough as a populace to fall for the distraction so much as we are exhausted by the futility of our efforts in the face of the state’s implacability. We might as well watch the game, eh. We did note the massive losses being accrued by state companies, the lack of health insurance, the schools ain’t getting better. Same story every year.

Read: EYAKUZE: Respect head of state but servile attitude to power has to stop

No taxation without representation? When I think of the unapologetic way in which I was informed that my legislator would be some shouty evangelist with zero track record of successful miracles, whether I liked it or not, the American Revolution saying makes sense even taken so far out of context.

Because this evangelist was the favourite of a leader at the time. This put me in mind of a term I heard the Hon Tundu Lissu use recently: Imperial Presidency.

I cannot say my legislator has been an asset to his constituency let alone the national assembly as a whole and would beg my fellow citizens’ forgiveness for his presence if it weren’t for the fact that we are many in this same boat.

Bearing the impositions made upon us, coping through snide jokes about government vehicles clogging the streets of Dar while children wade through rains every year to fail at national exams in poorly funded public schools. Taxes for what? But we are a middle-income country…

Elsie Eyakuze is an independent consultant and blogger for The Mikocheni Report; Email [email protected]