Tanzania

Last updated: 19 March 2021

Introduction

Although the 1977 Constitution guarantees basic human rights, the legal framework in Tanzania is not favorable for civil society organizations (CSOs) and civic freedoms. The government has in recent years enacted several laws restricting the freedoms of association, expression, and peaceful assembly. Moreover, the laws provide the executive branch with overly broad discretionary powers; consequently, human rights defenders, journalists, bloggers, and critics are often subject to criminal charges. These trends have accelerated since 2016 and laws have been adopted without meaningful consultation with civil society, the public, and other relevant stakeholders.

The roots of civil society in Tanzania can be traced to the pre-colonial period in Tanganyika in the 1920s. In 1922, for example, the Tanganyika Territory African Civil Servants Association was formed for securing the interests and welfare of indigenous civil servants. In addition, mutual cooperative movements and pastoralist movements were established to focus on land ownership and security. These movements eventually led to the formation of the associations that fought for the country’s independence in 1961. CSOs rose to further prominence in the 1980s after the government began to privatize and downsize the public sector under structural adjustment programs of the IMF and World Bank. These structural adjustment programs sought to strengthen CSOs’ ability to promote accountability and counter corruption.

The number of CSOs increased more rapidly after the country shifted to multi-party governance in 1992. Moreover, the existence of strong and powerful religious institutions that channeled their social services to rural areas also played a role in the acceptance and recognition of CSOs by the communities they served. The liberalization of the political system and accompanying expansion of civic space resulted in the enactment of the NGO Act in 2002. Since then, CSO have generally been recognized as an important sector in promoting democracy, good governance, and development in Tanzania.

Organizational Forms
Non-Governmental Associations
Registration Body
Office of the Registrar of NGOs, within the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children
Barriers to Entry
Mandatory registration
NGO Coordination Board can refuse to register an organization as an NGO under certain circumstances
NGOs must renew registration every 10 years
Registration fee ($43 for domestic NGOs, $500 for international NGOs) and annual subscription fees ($20 for domestic NGOs, $30 for international NGOs)
Barriers to Operations/Activities
Limited purposes permitted
NGOs must publish an annual activity report and an annual audited financial report, and there are additional transparency and reporting obligations
Government has significant powers to monitor NGO activities
Barriers to Speech and/or Advocacy
Government implements certain acts in a way that undermines freedom of expression.
Problematic laws include the Police Force and Auxiliary Service Act, the Cyber Crime Act, the Statistics Act, the Media Services Act, the Access to Information Act, the Political Parties (Amendment) Act, and the Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations.
Barriers to International Contact
None
Barriers to Resources
An NGO that receives more than 20 million Tanzanian Shillings ($8,500) must publish bi-annually the funds received and the costs incurred in raising such funds.
All funding contracts must be submitted to the Registrar within 14 days.
Barriers to Assembly
The Police Force Act grants the police powers to prevent certain assemblies from taking place and broadly defines an “unlawful assembly.”
Population
62,092,761 (July 2021 est.)
Capital
Dodoma
Type of Government
Presidential republic
Life Expectancy at Birth
Total population: 69.9 years (male 68.12 years, female: 71.74years) (2021 est.)
Literacy Rate
Total population: 77.9% (male: 83.2%, female: 73.1%) (2015 est.)
Religious Groups
Christian 61.4%, Muslim 35.2%, folk religion 1.8%, other 0.2%, unaffiliated 1.4% (2010 est.)
Ethnic Groups
mainland – African 99% (of which 95% are Bantu consisting of more than 130 tribes), other 1% (consisting of Asian, European, and Arab); Zanzibar – Arab, African, mixed Arab and African
GDP per capita
$2,660 (2019 est.)

Source: CIA World Factbook

Ranking Body
Rank
Ranking Scale
(best – worst)
UN Human Development Index
163 (2019)1 – 182
World Bank Rule of Law Index
N/A100 – 0
World Bank Voice & Accountability Index
N/A100 – 0
Transparency International
94 (2020)1 – 168
Freedom House: Freedom in the World
Status: Free
Political Rights: 17
Civil Liberties: 23 (2020)
Free/Partly Free/Not Free
1 – 40
1 – 60
Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index
61 (2020)178 – 1

International and Regional Human Rights Agreements

Key International Agreements
Ratification*
Year
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
Yes1976
Optional Protocol to ICCPR (ICCPR-OP1)
No
International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
Yes1976
Optional Protocol to ICESCR (OP-ICESCR)
No
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD)
Yes1972
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
Yes1985
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women
Yes2006
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
Yes1991
International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW)
No
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
Yes2009
Regional Treaties
Organisation of African Unity / African Union
Yes1965

* Category includes ratification, accession, or succession to the treaty

 

Pending NGO Legislative / Regulatory Initiatives

If you are aware of any pending legislative or regulatory initiatives that affect civic freedoms in Tanzania, please write to ICNL at ngomonitor@icnl.org.

Organizational Forms

The legal framework in Tanzania provides for a range of organization forms for CSOs. These include, among others, societies, trusts, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

On June 30, 2019, the Written Laws (Misc. Amendments) Act No. 3 of 2019 (“the Miscellaneous Amendments Act”) took effect in Tanzania. It amends key laws governing civil society – namely, the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) Act, the Societies Act and the Companies Act.

An NGO is defined under section 2 of the NGO Act, 2002, as amended by section 29 of the Miscellaneous Amendments Act:

‘Non-Governmental Organization’ also known by its acronym ‘NGO’ and which includes Community Based Organisation (CBO) means a voluntary grouping of individuals or organizations which is non-partisan or non-profit sharing established and operates for the benefit or welfare of the community or public organized at the local, national or international levels for the purpose of enhancing or promoting economic, environmental, social or cultural development or protecting environment, good governance, law and order, human rights, and lobbying or advocating on such issues; but does not include:

  • a company formed and registered under the Companies Act, Cap. 318
  • a trust formed and registered under the Trustees’ Incorporation Act; Cap. 366
  • a trade union formed and registered under the Employment and Labour Relations Act;
  • a religious or faith propagating organisation; Cap. 211
  • a cooperative society formed and registered under the Cooperative Societies Act;
  • an agricultural association formed and registered under any written law other than this Act; Cap. 337
  • a society formed and registered under the Societies Act; Cap. 258
  • a political party formed and registered under the Political Parties Act; Act No. 10 of 2018
  • a microfinance group (VICOBA) registered under the Microfinance Act; Cap. 49
  • a sports association formed and registered under the National Sport Council of Tanzania Act; and
  • any organisation which the Minister may, by order published in the Gazette, declare not to be a non-governmental organisation for the purpose of this Act.

The Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children maintains a public database of registered NGOs on its website.

A society is defined under section 2 of the Societies Act, as amended by section 35 of the Miscellaneous Amendments Act:

“Society” means a non -partisan and non -political association of ten or more persons established for professional, social, cultural, religion or economic benefits or welfare of its members, formed and registered as such under this Act, but does not include –

(a) a company formed and registered under the Companies Act;

(b) a trust formed and registered under the Trustees’ Incorporation Act.

This country note will focus predominantly on NGOs.

Public Benefit Status

NGOs in Tanzania are not automatically exempted from paying taxes. Rather, under the Income Tax Act, 2004, they must apply to the Commissioner-General of the Tanzania Revenue Authority for recognition as a charitable organization. Section 64(8) of the Act states, “For the purposes of this section, “charitable organisation” means a resident entity of a public character that satisfies the following conditions: (a) the entity was established and functions solely as an organisation for: (i) the relief of poverty or distress of the public; (ii) the advancement of education; or (iii) the provision of general public health, education, water or road construction or maintenance; and (b) the entity has been issued with a ruling by the Commissioner under section 131 currently in force stating that it is a charitable organisation or religious organization.

Barriers to Entry

All NGOs must register to operate under the NGO Act (NGO Act, Section 11(1)). All NGOs must apply for registration with the Office of the Registrar of NGOs, which is part of the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children (Section 11(1)).

Section 12 of the NGO Act, 2002 outlines the process and required documents to apply for registration:

(1) A group of persons who wish to apply for registration of a Non-Governmental Organization shall make application in the prescribed form to the Registrar.

(2) An application for registration shall be submitted by one or more persons, being founder members, which shall be accompanied by:

(a) A copy of the constitution of the Non-Governmental Organization;

(b) Minutes containing full names and signature of founder members;

(c) Personal particulars of the office bearer;

(d) The address and physical location of the head office of the Non-Governmental Organization;

(e) An application fee; and

(f) Any other particulars or information as may be required by the Registrar.

The NGO Act, 2002 authorizes the NGO Coordination Board (Board) to (1) approve and coordinate registration of NGOs; (2) examine annual reports of NGOs; and (3) investigate NGO adherence with their governing documents (NGO Act, Sections 7(1)(a), (c), (d), (f) and (l)). Upon acceptance of the application, the Board directs the Registrar of NGOs to issue a certificate of registration to the applicant.

The Board can refuse to register an organization as an NGO if (1) the activities are not in the public interest or are contrary to any written law; (2) the application contains false or misleading information on any material matter; or (3) the Council has recommended that the NGO not be registered (NGO Act, Section 14). (The Council is the National Council for NGOs, established under the NGO Act as a collective forum of NGOs to coordinate and provide a network for NGOs in Tanzania. (NGO Act, Sections 25(2)-(3), 27, and 28)).

If the Board denies the application, it must provide a reason for the denial within 21 days and the applicant may apply to the Board to review the decision. If the Board upholds the rejection, the applicant may then apply to the Minister of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children to evaluate the case. The Minister may either (a) uphold, quash, or alter the decision of the Board; (b) require the Board to revise or review its decision; or (c) require the Board to request additional information from the appellant for further consider the application. The decision of the Minister is final and binding.

NGOs must renew their certificate of registration every 10 years. (NGO Act, Section 17(3)). Applications for renewal of registration must be made 6 months before the expiry date (NGO Act, Section 17(4)).

The registration fees for domestic NGOs are 100,000 Tanzania shillings ($43), while fees are $500 for international NGOs. Similarly, the annual subscription fees for domestic NGOs are 4,000 Tanzania Shillings ($20), while the fees for an international NGO are 60,000 Tanzania Shillings ($30).

Barriers to Operational Activity

Section 2 of the NGO Act, 2002, as amended by the Miscellaneous Amendments Act limits NGO purposes to “enhancing or promoting economic, environmental, social or cultural development or protecting the environment, good governance, law and order, human rights, and lobbying or advocating for such issues.” Any purpose not covered by this definition is not permitted. NGOs are not permitted to become involved in political platforms or conduct activities that are aimed toward influencing or mobilizing citizens to engage in a certain political party.

In terms of reporting, NGOs must publish two annual reports: (1) the annual activity report (made available to the public, the Council, the Board, and other stakeholders) (NGO Act, Section 29(1)); and (2) the annual audited financial report (submitted to the Council and Board and made available to the public) (NGO Act, Section 29(1)(b)).

In addition to the annual audited financial report, NGOs have financial transparency and reporting obligations under the NGO Act (Amendment) Regulations of 2018:

  • NGOs must disclose to the public, Registrar, Council, Board, and other stakeholders the source, expenditure, purpose, and activities related to funds or resources obtained within 14 days from the date of completing fundraising activities (NGO Regulations, Regulation 12); and
  • If the NGO receives funds exceeding twenty million shillings, then it must: submit contracts or agreements entered with donors to the Treasury and Registrar for approval; declare to the Registrar any resource received in cash or in kind before its expenditure; and publish biannually in a widely-circulating newspaper or other media channels funds received and expenditures (NGO Regulations, Regulation 13).

International NGOs also have additional duties. These include (1) fostering and promoting the capacities and abilities of other NGOs, (2) participating in the activities of the Council; and (3) refraining from acts likely to cause competition or misunderstanding among NGOs (NGO Act, Section 31).

The government has significant powers to monitor NGO activities. The NGO Registrar may conduct monitoring and evaluation of NGO activities on a quarterly basis and report to the Board (NGO Act, Section 4(1)(i)); investigate any matter as required, through collaboration with law enforcement organs (NGO Act, Section 4(A)(1)); and require cooperation from law enforcement and public entities to provide facilities and services of employees deemed necessary to help the Registrar perform its functions (NGO Act, Section 4(A)(2)). Moreover, the relevant Minister may issue guidelines necessary for monitoring and evaluating the operations of NGOs (NGO Act, Section 4(4)).

Regarding sanctions, a person commits an offense if he/she, among others, operates an NGO without registering under the NGO Act (NGO Act, Section 35(1)). In such a case, the person is liable for a fine of up to 500,000 shillings or imprisonment for up to one year, or both a fine and imprisonment (NGO Act, Section 35(1)); and disqualified from holding office in any NGO on mainland Tanzania for a maximum period of 5 years (NGO Act, Section 35(2)).

Regarding involuntary dissolution, the NGO Registrar may suspend the operations of any NGO that violates the provisions of the NGO Act, pending final determination by the Board (NGO Act, Section 4(1)(i)). The Board may suspend or cancel a certificate of registration if the NGO has violated terms or conditions of the certificate of registration; the NGO has ceased to exist; the NGO operates “in variance” to its constitution; or the Council has submitted a recommendation for the suspension/cancellation of the NGO (NGO Act, Section 20(1)).

NGOs have generally been able to collaborate with state bodies, such as the judiciary and parliament, although this has varied depending on the nature of NGOs’ activities and methods.

Barriers to Speech and Advocacy

Article 18 of the 1977 Constitution of Tanzania provides for freedom of expression without exception. Nevertheless, in practice, state agencies implement provisions of certain laws, such as the Police Force and Auxiliary Service Act, 2002, and the Media Services Act, 2016, in ways that undermine the freedom of expression. Worryingly, government authorities have subjected NGOs, member of the opposition, and journalists to harassment, arrest, and detention. For instance, the Tanzanian journalist Erick Kabendera was arrested in July 2019 after police claimed his citizenship was in question; police later changed tactics and charged him with economic crimes, including money laundering and tax evasion, which are not eligible for bail. He was finally released in February 2020 but had to pay fines of more than $100,000.

The following laws have been used to impede the freedom of expression in Tanzania:

The Cyber Crime Act, 2015

The Act criminalizes certain online activities, including the publication of false, deceptive, misleading, or inaccurate information. The Act gives law enforcement broad powers to search and seize electronic equipment. And the Act does not require investigating officers to obtain a warrant before carrying out activities such as surveillance or interception of communications; “reasonable grounds” are sufficient.

Procedural safeguards and due process guarantees are largely left out of the Act. Key terms, including “offences,” are not clearly defined. The Act also includes a “sedition offence” that carries severe penalties. More generally, its criminal sanctions are highly disproportionate, and it only recognizes a small number of available defenses. The government has prosecuted the independent online activities of bloggers, journalists, and citizens under this law.

The Statistics Act, 2015, as amended

The Statistics Act of 2015 made it a crime for people in Tanzania to publish “false official statistics” or to disseminate information that would result in the “distortion of facts.” In 2018, Parliament amended the law to make it a crime to publish statistics without the approval of the National Bureau of Statistics, and to disseminate statistics that “invalidate, distort or discredit” the government bodies’ statistics. In 2019, the Written Laws (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act No. 3 amended the Statistics Act yet again to affirm that every person has a right to collect and disseminate statistical information and removes criminal liability for publishing independent statistics.

The Media Services Act, 2016

The Media Services Act (MSA) contains vague and ambiguous terminology, such as “false statements,” “rumors,” and “disturbing the public peace.” Among the most problematic provisions is section 58, which gives the Minister of Information, Youth, Culture and Sports “absolute discretion” to prohibit importing a foreign publication. Furthermore, section 59 provides the Minister discretionary powers to prohibit or otherwise sanction the publication of any content that jeopardizes national security or public safety. This section has been used to ban or suspend independent media and has been a key tool in the crackdown on civic space.

On March 28, 2019, the East African Court of Justice ruled that some provisions of the MSA impermissibly suppressed freedom of expression and access to information. The Court directed the Government of Tanzania to take necessary measures to bring the MSA into compliance with the East Africa Community Treaty. The government filed a notice of appeal on April 11, 2019, and under the Court’s rules an appeal must be filed within 30 days of the notice; however, the government failed to file its appeal.

The Access to Information Act, 2016

The Access to Information Act, 2016, promotes transparency and supports the right of access to information, as guaranteed under Article 18 of the Constitution. However, it also imposes severe penalties for wrongly releasing information to the public. The authorities may also withhold information if its disclosure is deemed likely to, inter alia, undermine Tanzania’s international relations, hinder or cause substantial harm to the government’s management of the economy, or distort records of court proceedings before the conclusion of a case. The scope of “information relating to national security” in section 6 is exceedingly broad, and any person who discloses exempt information can face three to five years in prison.

The Political Parties (Amendment) Act, 2019

The Political Parties (Amendment) Act, 2019, regulates political activities and political parties in Tanzania. The Registrar of Political Parties, which regulates the civic education of political parties, has broad leeway to reject the application of any CSO that seeks to provide political and civic education to political parties, as stipulated in section 5(2).

The amendments also include severe penalties for administrative offences. For instance, a political party can be suspended for failing to maintain an updated register of its members or leaders (section 8C(3)), creating fear that political parties may unwittingly contravene the law. In addition, section 5B authorizes the Registrar to request information from political parties, and the failure to honor requests from the Registrar is a criminal offence. Furthermore, the penalties envisioned are disproportionate. For instance, failing to provide any information can result in fines of millions of shillings for both individuals and institutions, or even jail terms. In some cases, parties can be suspended indefinitely or deregistered for these administrative offences.

The Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations 2018 (EPOCA Regulations), 2018

The Regulations, which were enacted by the Minister of Information under the Electronic and Postal Communications Act 2010, came into effect in April 2018. They allow the government to arbitrarily regulate and ban online content produced by bloggers, citizen journalists, forum administrators, and social media users, as well as content on websites, online television, and radio stations. The Regulations apply to everyone in Tanzania, as well as to Tanzanian citizens living abroad. The Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) regulates online content and has sweeping powers to remove it. It is also tasked with keeping a register of bloggers, online forums, and online radio and television stations, and can impose significant fines for violations.

The Regulations require all online blogs and forums to register with the TCRA, and registration and licensing are mandatory for any blogging or citizen journalism activity. The initial annual licensing fee is 2,000,000 Tanzanian Shillings ($850), a prohibitively high amount that is equivalent to roughly one-third of the average annual per capita income in Tanzania. In addition to restricting fundamental freedoms, the law creates a climate of fear for journalists, human rights activists, opposition parties, anyone critical of the government, and social media influencers.

Barriers to International Contact

The laws and policies governing NGOs do not limit or restrict international contact or partnerships that domestic organizations may form with international entities. The government also does not hinder the free movement or travel of NGO representatives into and out of the country.

Barriers to Resources

Regulation 13(b) of the Non-Governmental Organizations (Amendments) Regulations, 2018, requires an NGO that receives more than 20 million Tanzanian Shillings ($8,500) to publish bi-annually the funds received and the costs incurred in raising such funds. This information must be published in widely circulated newspapers and other media channels that are easily accessible to the organization’s beneficiaries. The law also requires all funding contracts to be submitted to the Registrar within 14 days from the date of entering into such an agreement.

Barriers to Assembly

Article 20(1) of the 1977 Constitution of Tanzania provides for freedom of assembly: Every person has a freedom, to freely and peaceably assemble, associate and cooperate with other persons, and for that purpose, express views publicly and to form and join with associations or organizations formed for purposes of preserving or furthering his beliefs or interests or any other interests.

The organization and conduct of assemblies are subject to the rules set forth in the Police Force Act and Auxiliary Service Act, 2002. Article 43 of the Police Force Act requires that anyone organizing an assembly to submit a written notification to the police at least 48 hours in advance of the assembly. The notification must specify the time and place of the assembly; the purpose of the assembly; and “such other particulars as the Minister may … specify.”

The Police Force Act authorizes the police to prevent an assembly from taking place if such assembly “breaches the peace or prejudices the public safety or the maintenance of peace and order.” (Article 44)

The Police Force also defines an “unlawful assembly” to be “[a]ny assembly or procession in which three or more persons attending or taking part neglect to obey any order for dispersal” when given under the law. (Article 44)

In practice, police and security forces have sometimes used excessive force to disperse peaceful protestors. A July 2016 blanket ban on political rallies has been selectively applied against opposition parties whose leaders have faced intimidation, harassment, arbitrary arrest and prosecution on trumped-up charges. Moreover, although there are no procedural requirements for closed or internal meetings, the police have raided opposition parties’ internal meetings, claiming the parties did not follow lawful procedures. These raids have resulted in opposition members being harassed, detained, beaten, and forcibly arrested.

UN Universal Periodic Review Reports
May 9, 2016 (Tanzania)
Reports of UN Special Rapporteurs
Report of the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism – Mission to the United Republic of Tanzania (A/HRC/37/57/Add.1)

Council on Foundations Country Notes
N/A
U.S. State Department
2019 Human Rights Report: Tanzania
Fragile States Index Reports
Foreign Policy Fragile States Index
IMF Country Reports
2021 (Tanzania)
International Commission of Jurists
N/A
International Center for Not-for-Profit Law Online Library
Tanzania

Vested interests behind Tanzania law change push (February 2021)
There are two groups behind the growing calls for constitutional change in Tanzania. One is campaigning for changes that will bring equity to the political scene while the other is seeking an extension of President John Magufuli’s tenure. The first group, made up of activists, is campaigning for constitutional reform that would enable the formation of an Independent Electoral Commission. The other group is made up of several ruling party legislators.

 

While we aim to maintain information that is as current as possible, we realize that situations can rapidly change. If you are aware of any additional information or inaccuracies on this page, please keep us informed; write to ICNL at ngomonitor@icnl.org.

The foregoing information was collected by ICNL’s CFM partner in Tanzania.