Zanzibar, land of milk, honey – and NO VAT?

Thursday February 7 2019


Two things prompted this piece on Zanzibar, the Indian Ocean archipelago that’s a semiautonomous part of Tanzania...

With a population of about 1.3m, Zanzibar had a chequered history as a Sultanate under largely-nominal British protection. Britain ended its ‘protection’ on December 10, 1963 – and Zanzibar became a Constitutional Monarchy under Sultan Jamshid.

The January 12, 1964 Revolution, led by an obscure, self-styled ‘Field Marshall’ John Okello, ousted the Sultan – and the Zanzibar Republic under Abeid Amani Karume (1905-1972) as President filled the vacuum.

The Republic lasted until April 26, 1964, when Zanzibar joined the Tanganyika to form the United Republic of Tanzania (‘Tanzania’).

However, the Union is a loose affair in which Zanzibar has its own Constitution, a President, a Revolutionary Government, a House of Representatives, a Local Government System – and, beginning in 2004: a ‘Zanzibar flag’, a ‘local’ anthem and the motto: ‘Zanzibar kwa Afrika; Zanzibar kwa ajili ya Dunia (roughly ki-Swahili for: ‘Zanzibar for Africa; Zanzibar for the World’)... [Google for />

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In My Book of Things, Zanzibar is steadily becoming a modern-day ‘Canaan, the prosperous Biblical land flowing with milk and honey to which God brought His people from slavery in Egypt!

Look at it this way...Generally, a ‘land of milk and honey’ denotes a country where life is exceptionally easy, with good living conditions, with plenty of everything in terms of human needs and opportunities...Union President John Magufuli recently ordered removal of the 18 per cent value-added tax on electricity sold to Zanzibar by the State power monopoly Tanesco.

He also cancelled Sh22.9bn debt from accumulated unpaid electricity bills owed to Tanesco by the Zanzibar Electricity Corporation.

According to a January 21 statement by the Presidential Communications Directorate, the twin presidential fiat was given at a State House meeting attended by Zanzibar President Ali Mohamed Shein. [See ‘Magufuli scraps VAT on Isles power purchases;’ The Guardian-Tanzania: January 22, 2019].

But, Dr Shein stated that the Zanzibar economy is vibrant and buoyant to the point of making the Isles a modern-day Canaan – praise be to the Lord-on-High. In such a situation: why would the Union President cancel the ZESCO billions-in-debt – and also exempt Zanzibar from VAT on electricity generated on the Mainland?

This comes at a time when the Mainland is struggling to raise public revenues – with Temeke Municipality in Dar, for example, imposing tax on social gatherings, including soirées in private homes, like birthday parties... Taxing personal birthday anniversary celebrations, for Gawd’s sake?

In his January 12, 2019 public address in Pemba to commemorate the 55th anniversary of the 1964 Revolution, Dr. Shein detailed superlative achievements in gross GDP; per capita GDP ($944); Government revenues (Sh688.7bn); Education; Infrastructure (Transport, Energy, Utilities: 83% of 3,256 villages supplied with electricity); free universal healthcare; single-digit inflation (3.9% in 2018), etc.

The Isles Economy grew by 7.7 per cent in 2017 – to say nothing of its Tourism industry, which saw to some 520,809 tourist arrivals in 2018: nearly half of all the tourist arrivals in the United Republic! [See ‘Wa-Zanzibari kutibiwa bure;’ JAMHURI: Jan. 15, 2019].

With such socio-economic goody-goodies, why would 1.3m Zanzibaris be granted extra favours at the expense of 55m Mainlanders, pray? Why, indeed? Tears!