My late father was an employee of the the colonial government. He had in his possession some documents which he claimed to be very important documents that he carefully kept. After his death, we have continued keeping the documents in a safe. Recently, we were approached by some officials who claimed to be from the government and who wanted to inspect the documents, which we allowed them to do. Two weeks later, the same officers came back and told us that they want to take the documents for the use of the government. Is there any law that allows them to do so? If yes, what are our rights in this circumstance as the documents have a sentimental value?
The law in Tanzania categorizes records into two groups being public and private records. Public records have been defined to mean the records and archives belonging to the United Republic created, received and maintained in the offices of the President; official bodies and tribunals; public offices whether legislative, judicial or executive. While private records are those documents other than public records.
Section 26 of the Records and Archives Management Act, R.E 2002 empowers the Minister responsible for the records and archives management to acquire any private records that are of national importance and in the public interest. After such acquisition, the Minister will then declare the records to be public records.
The law requires the Minister to consult the owner of private records before proceeding with the acquisition process. Furthermore, regulation 15 of the Records and Archives Management Regulation, GN No. 77 of 2007 provides for the procedure to be complied with before the acquisition of such private records. The provisions of the above-mentioned regulation makes it mandatory for the Records and Archives Management Department to prepare an agreement or contract which is to be entered between the owner of private records and the Department.
The said agreement has to specify the records to be acquired and various terms and conditions to be observed by both parties. On top of that, the owner is entitled to full and fair compensation in respect of the private records so acquired. Additionally, the amount of compensation to be paid shall be determined by the Minister for Finance after consultation with the person entitled to that compensation.