Achievements, challenges and a way forward for Tanzania Union

Wednesday May 22 2019


By Mohamed M Nassor and Dr Abdullah H Makame

The country, United Republic of Tanzania commemorated a major national event which is the 55th anniversary of the Union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar on 26th April, 2019.

According to President Nyerere’s article which was published in The Journal of Modern African Studies of Cambridge University Press in 1963”There is one sense in which African Unity already exists.

There is a huge sentiment of ‘Africanness, or a feeling of mutual involvement, which pervades all the political and cultural life on the African continent…” African union was very important so as to get rid of colonial domination’; under which the entire life of the people of African nations had been shaped by colonial rulers, who had totally different customs and beliefs.

On the other hand, Mwalimu Nyerere explained its great enthusiasm for the quick formation of the East African Federation, as an important step towards the eventual unification of all the African countries.

But Nyerere’s enthusiasm quickly turned to the union with Zanzibar in the same hope that this would constitute one positive step towards the desired unity of all African States, or the United States of Africa.

The Union Agreement between Tanganyika and Zanzibar was signed by Mwalimu Julius Nyerere and Abeid Amani Karume, April 22, 1964, Zanzibar.

It was confirmed by the Parliament of Tanganyika and the Zanzibar Revolutionary Council on April 26, 1964. On April 27, 1964 the leaders met at the Karimjee Hall, in Dar es Salaam to exchange the Union documents and members of the Revolutionary Council Zanzibar were sworn in to be members of Parliament of the United Republic of Tanzania namely; Amani Karume, Kassim Abdallah Hanga, Abdulrahman Babu, Hassan Nassor Moyo, Hasnu Makame, Idris Abdul Wakil and others.

The Union rules stated that the Republic of Tanganyika and the People’s Republic of Zanzibar were obliged to become the Republic government, the Republic of Tanganyika and the Republic of Zanzibar, a name that was changed on October 28, 1964 and become the United Republic of Tanzania through the law of the United Republic of Tanzania which is the law number 61, of 1964.

The fundamentals of the constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania of 1977 and the Zanzibar Constitution of 1984 is the Union Charters of 1964. After the union, Mwalimu Nyerere was the first President of the United Republic of Tanzania and Sheikh Karume, the President of Zanzibar became the Vice President of the United Republic of Tanzania.

In strengthening the union, 13 years later the ruling parties (TANU and ASP) from both sides of the union almagamated to form one party within the United Republic, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) which still remains the strongest political party in Tanzania and as a legend of politics in Africa.

In 1992 Tanzania embraced Multi Party Political System, to preserve the national integration of the then 29 years old union, it became an mandatory requirement of registration that a political party has membership representation on both sides of the union viz Tanzania Mainland and Tanzania Zanzibar.

This small article takes a hurried look at the Union and assesses the achievements and challenges on the integration frontier.


In his words, Prof. Issa Shivji argues that, “the Union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar was born in the midst of debates on Pan-Africanism and in the thick of cold war”. Therefore, to this day, the Union carries its birthmarks, more of the latter than the former.

The Union is the only surviving example of a political association of African sovereign states”. It is very crucial to note that the Union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar have displayed the best lesson to the Unions in Africa which were formed during the same time but all of them failed such as the Senegal and Gambia (Senegambia), Ghana and British Togoland, Italian and British Somaliland, Mali Federation, Ghana-Guinea-Mali Union, the Greater Maghreb Union.

The country (i.e. Tanzania) has survived the Cold war and it has survived much of the demons which have left many countries on the continent in chaos; the legacy of both colonialism and the early leaders of post-colonial Africa and whatever versions of state-building projects which emerged out of the embers of that era.

These two countries (Tanganyika and Zanzibar) almagamated to one country (The United Republic of Tanzania) has provided the best path forward to eliminate 1884 imperialists drawn borders on a United Africa which was effectively the dream of pan-Africanism.

The political union just came later in 1964 but the people of Tanganyika and the People of Zanzibar had long historical and cordial relations and long associations which has existed between them many centuries before 1964.

The ‘long established beneficial association between the peoples of these lands and the ties of kinship and amity between them’ has been successfully maintained and strengthened.

This is the best example of furthering the unity of African people.The country has achieved and enjoyed the important objective of enhancing the political stability, safety, peace and security under the umbrella of union.

Zanzibar itself as part of the Union has made huge progress in socio-economic development during these 55 years of Union.

The Islands have now a source of a reliable electrity from TANESCO as opposed to the Diesel Generated power that was in use immediately after the revolution; Mainland Tanzania is a source of most consumable agricultural products in Zanzibar as well as a market, employment and investments destination for people from Zanzibar.

Social integration is at its peak where we have hybrid children and grandchildren of the Union, we are likewise, calling each other ‘shemeji’ due to intermarriages between Tanzania Mainland and Zanzibar.


Much as the Union has registered significant achievements, it has minor challenges that need to be addressed so as to make it healthier.

One such challenge is the whipping done by the TRA on products for personal use coming from Zanzibar, where a person crossing with personal effect like a television set, or blender; will be required to pay some sort of importation fees! This makes people enquire whether Zanzibar is a foreign land; in fact, a person crossing with a similar item from one of the EAC Partner States never faces such restrictions, which generates questions as to whether Tanzania Mainland offers better treatment to EAC Partner States than to its counterpart constituent in the Union.

Another challenge emanates from the annulment of the 1997 VAT Act of Tanzania Mainland through enactment of 2014 VAT Act effectively terminated the agency relationship between TRA and ZRB, which in turn makes Zanzibari imported goods from Tanzania Mainland that have not been acquired under Ex-Factory terms to be charged double VAT.

Water bottled in Zanzibar cannot be sold in the Mainland despite meeting the required standards and bearing the standards mark.

In recent months, for unknown reasons, the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries of Tanzania Mainland has deployed officials at the Zanzibar Port who restrict crossing with meat of as low as 2 kilograms if the person carrying it does not have a permit which can be obtained at their offices in near TAZARA.

People from Zanzibar have always enjoyed importing poultry, beef or mutton from Mainland for personal use for years prior to the Union and years post the union; such reckless acts of restriction made unilaterally by technocrats raise foul cries by affected people and give anti union camp something to lament about and win support.

Way forward:

With regards to importation of goods for personal use or small scale trading ‘umachinga’, TRA should eliminate unnecessary restrictions; they should let Tanzanians to enjoy Tanzania.

With regards to the issue of VAT, Ministries of Finance, TRA and Attorneys General should undertake urgent measures to make miscellaneous amendments in the VAT Act of 2014, such that the Agency relationship between ZRB and TRA is re-established.

It should be appreciated that VAT is a domestic tax, aimed to benefit the area where the VAT paid goods are consumed; it is thus not fair to have VAT paid in Mainland for goods consumed in Zanzibar and vice versa; and that is why the ZRB had been collecting VAT on goods imported due to absence of agency relationship; the logic of eliminating VAT charged on ZECO for electricity is the same logic for other products imported into Zanzibar.

The Miscellaneous amendments will only cover for the products that are imported not under the Ex-Factory Terms. A stop to barring Water and other products capriciously barred access of Mainland Market. The meat restriction should be abolished forthwith.

Mohamed M Nassor, PhD Candidate in Economics, Department of Political Economy at the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia

Dr Abdullah H Makame, Member of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), from Tanzania, 2017-2022