Uganda Law Society warns gov’t over mobile money, social media taxation

Uganda Law Society, president Mr Simon Peter Kinobe adress journalists at Serena Hotel July 3, 2018. (PHOTO: STEPHEN WANDERA)

By Stephen Wandera

KAMPALA, Uganda Law Society has released its quarterly report on the rule of law pinning security agencies for arbitrary arrests and detention beyond the mandatory 24 hours. According to Mr Simon Peter Kinobe, the society’s president, the report also highlights the recent murders, the social media and mobile money tax he described as unpopular.

“The report indicates the recent murders especial of women and the detention of suspects beyond 24 hours without trial or being released. We have written to police and other security agencies to respect the rule of law or else we shall take the responsible individuals and government to court,” he said.  

It also highlights on the social media and mobile money tax that has an element of double taxation and we may drag government to court, Mr Kinobe said at the launch at Kampala Serena Hotel July 3, 2018.

He blamed government for organizing local council election by voters lining up.

“This is what took President Yoweri Museveni to the bush. We do not expect this crude method to be used today in this modern era. We are now joining Foundation for Human Rights Initiative case it sued government on lining up,” he said.  

Ms Pheona Nabasa Gladys Wall, the Vice President Uganda Law Society said government could be proud to collect Shs600 billion from mobile money but the effect could be detrimental.

“It is the local person who will be most affected and government should review the tax,” she explained.

However Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah who was the chief guest told the lawyers to forget complaining about the taxes and get to work.

After mounting public pressure, government has agreed to review the progress of social media tax after two weeks of implementation. The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and all telecom operators met today and agreed to review the progress and devise a way forward.
A tweet from the official UCC twitter handle read; “After 2 weeks, the Commission together with @URAuganda, telecoms and Ministry of Finance will meet to evaluate the progress of Social Media Tax.”

When asked, Mr Godfrey Mutabazi, the UCC executive director, confirmed the development.
“Yes, we reached an agreement with URA, telecom operators and the Finance ministry that we review the process after two weeks. We are also exploring other options to make sure the payment is cheap for the users. However, the bottom line is that the social media tax will stay,” Mr Mutabazi said.

He said contrary to the speculation that everyone has been blocked, it is only those who have not paid the taxes.
Mr Mutabazi said those who have installed the VPN services are incurring more costs to install the services instead of paying the nominal tax.
He also said the regulation is done within context of government policy and industry developments.
“As a regulator, we seek to facilitate national development while protecting consumers and encouraging fair competition,” the UCC boss said.

The introduction of the tax has raised a storm across the country, with many Ugandans bashing the government for what they said was a deliberate move to deny many citizens access to information.
A section of the public has installed virtual private network (VPN) services to bypass the taxes.
Mr Mutabazi had said the commission has facilities in place to block the VPN services.

However many users were still using VPN.
It is understood that the commission has now asked the telecom operators to block access to VPN, an order that may not be easy to enforce since the service softwares are on Google store and windows App.
When asked what progress had been made, Mr Val Oketcho, the MTN spokesperson, said he was not privy to any discussions between the UCC and the telecom operators.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

three + 5 =