TANZANIA’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan has given her country’s workers a reason to smile with hope and promises to improve their welfare, something they have never heard from the head of state in the past five years.
While addressing the nation during the International Workers’ Day (May Day) in Mwanza City on the shores of Lake Victoria, President Samia – who came to power hardly 50 days ago – said she would increase salaries next year.
She also promised tax cuts for workers, and sent a message of comfort to those who had been unfairly and mistakenly laid-off by her predecessor’s administration.
She has reduced the Pay-As-You-Earn tax by one percent, from 9 percent to 8 percent, a move that is equivalent to a salary increment of 1 percent – to those eligible, beginning July 2021.
In the past five year of President John Magufuli, Samia’s predecessor, statutory salary increases were ignored and annual salary raises were discouraged as the president blatantly said he preferred to spend money on infrastructure.
But today, in her first May Day celebration as president, Samia was calm as she said that despite her desire to increase salaries, the government she inherited could not do so now due to a number of challenges including the outbreak of COVID-19, which has had a negative impact on the economy. Her predecessor never admitted there was COVID-19 in Tanzania.
To deliver on this promise, President Samia has ordered the immediate establishment of a compensation board that will enable her to understand the level of increase in the salaries of public servants and the private sector.
President Samia has stated that COVID-19 has reduced the national GDP from 6.9 percent to 4.7 percent, which is a 32 percent decline.
While apologizing to the workers for not quenching their thirst for wage increases, President Samia said it was sad to see workers not getting the increase for a long time. She said; “I would wanted to increase salaries but the economic realities is pulling me back.”
To alleviate the “suffering of workers,” President Samia said the government has reduced various taxes and levies on workers’ salaries.
Immediately after President Samia’s speech, Zitto Kabwe, a supreme leader of opposition party, ACT-Wazalendo acclaimed the speech pointing that it meant something tangible on the way and carries a lot of “weight to workers.”
“Reducing staff taxes and value retention fee (VRF) for those having higher education loans, is a great move as it increases their disposable income.”
Furthermore, President Samia has ordered that all employees with a seventh-grade education who did not forge certificates but were fired, should be paid all their pensions.
Unlike President Magufuli who, every time he officiated May Day for the years he was in power, failed to express politely how much he cared for the Tanzanian workers, except to discourage them, President Samia succeeded in this regard.
Commenting on President Samia’s address to the workers, Bishop Emmaus Mwamakula said that although the salaries of the workers had not been increased, the polite statement from the country’s leader had given hope and encouragement to the working class.
“President Samia’s speech is full of dignity, heals wounds and heals the hearts of workers who have been injured for the past five years in a row,” said the leader of the Mennonite Revival Church in Tanzania.
Chavula James, leader of the Tanzania Teachers ‘Union (CWT), said President Samia’s speech showed her reaction to the workers’ plight, but she did not have the money to raise salaries as she would have done if her office tenure had been longer.
Speaking to SAUTI KUBWA James explained that expecting President Samia to increase salaries within two months of her stay in office was “unfair.”
During his presidency, President Magufuli addressing workers and the nation for the first ceremony in May 2016, failed to even promise salaries raise. Instead he said he was busy “fighting a war on fake certificates,” in order to detect unqualified employees.
In 2017, President Magufuli promised to raise salaries, but failed to deliver on his promise. In the following year, 2018, he complained that the country’s trade unions confederation (TUCTA) had misquoted him with a promise to raise salaries.
On this occasion, he said he could not increase salaries as he was busy dealing with mega projects that would have broad benefits for every citizen.
Again, in May 2019, President Magufuli told workers that he would increase salaries as he nears the end of his term of office.
The Constitution of Tanzania stipulates that the president of the country should serve for a maximum of two terms of five years each in office.
Magufuli completed his first term in 2020 and began his second term last year, but died in office on March 17, 2021.