Q&A – 16 December 2019

30-year rule in accessing public records

I am a historian and interested in accessing various public records during the time of Mwalimu Nyerere and the successor President’s. In other countries such records after a certain time limit are open to the public. What is the position in Tanzania and how can I proceed access these records so that I can document some interesting moments?
OG, Mwanza

Like in other countries, Tanzania has in place the Records and Archives Management Act of 2002 which is an act to establish the records and Archives Management Department to provide for the proper Administration and management of public records and archives throughout their life cycle and for connected matters.

This law provides that after a 30-year period from the date the documents were created, such documents are available to the public for inspection. At the expiration of 30 years, any records which have been classified as confidential cease to be so classified and subject to the National Security Act can be accessed. However, a longer period of 30 years may be prescribed when there is a continuing need to restrict the public access on grounds of national security, maintenance of public order, safeguarding revenue or protection of privacy of living individuals.

You may approach the Director of Records and Archives who can facilitate the viewing of such records, subject to the above 30-year rule and other exclusions.

For you reference public records include but not limited to the records and archives belonging to the United Republic created, received and maintained (a) in the offices of the President and of the Cabinet; (b) by any ministry, department, commission, committee, office or other body under the Government of the United Republic or by the Minister or any other officer or employee thereof, (c) by any post representing the Government of the United Republic outside the country or any officer serving in such a post; (d) by any information or unit of the armed forces of the United Republic or any officer of such a formation or unit; (e) by the Parliament or Electoral Commission or any committee or officer thereof, (f) by the Court of Appeal, High Court or any other Court or tribunal with jurisdiction within the United Republic or by any Judge, Management or other officer of such a Court, in addition created, amongst others.

Whatsapp marketing messages

I keep on getting Whatsapp messages that invite me to purchase items. Finally, I decided to try one of these online portals and to date my goods have not arrived. I don’t even know where the supplier is located and I’ve already paid in advance. Is there no law to protect me from this? I am told that our laws don’t recognize electronic contracts.
IG, Dar

The Electronic Transactions Act comes to your rescue as there is full recognition to electronic contracts.
On unsolicited messages, section 32 states that no person shall send unsolicited commercial communication on goods or services unless there is consent for such communication, the identity of the sender is disclosed in addition for there to be an opt out to reject further communication.

This law further states that the consent requirement is deemed to have been met where (a) the contact of the addressee and other personal information were collected by the originator of the message in the course of a sale or negotiations for a sale; (b) the originator only sends promotional messages relating to its similar products and services to the addressee; (c) the originator offered the addressee the opportunity to opt-out and the addressee declined to opt-out; and (d) an opportunity to opt-out is provided by the originator to the addressee with every subsequent message. (3) An originator who contravenes this section commits an offence and shall, upon conviction, be liable to a fine of not less than ten million shillings or to imprisonment for a term not less than one year or to both.

Finally the same law provides that a supplier offering goods or services for sale, hire or for exchange electronically, shall provide the following information to consumers (a) full name, legal status and place of business; (b) contact details including physical address, telephone and e-mail addresses; (c) a full description of the goods or services offered; (d) the price of the goods or services; (e) information on the payment mechanism that complies with other written laws; and (f) any other relevant information. (2) Before a consumer places an order, the supplier shall provide the consumer with an opportunity to (a) review the entire electronic transaction; (b) correct any mistake; and (c) withdraw from the transaction. (3) Where a supplier contravenes this section, the consumer may, within fourteen days of receiving the goods or services, cancel the transaction.
We suggest you contact a lawyer who can guide you further.

Law enforcement entry into consular premises

Can law enforcement enter into the premises of any embassy in Tanzania? Why should we not be allowed when these embassies are on our soil? This is a breach to our sovereignty and I want to challenge it.
IG, Dar

You seem to be taking sovereignty too far, and forgetting that we also have our High Commissions around the world that are accorded the same protection.

Under International Law, the Vienna Convention and the Diplomatic and Consular Immunities and Privileges Act, law enforcement are not allowed to enter consulates unless the consular officer in charge or the Minister has consented. There are exceptions for example if there is an emergency in the consulate or if there is a crime about to be committed or has been committed, law enforcement can enter.

This privilege is very tightly guarded and Governments from around the world, Tanzania inclusive, respect it.