Q&A – 2 October 2023

Employer notifying public on termination

I believe that a notice published as a Public Notice “to inform general public that Mr. so and so is no longer an employee of the employer company and hence he is not authorized to transact any business in relation to the company and the company shall not be held liable for any business he may transact” amounts to a defamation. Apart from the poor legal text phrased, such a publication of Public Notice in a prominent newspaper is not common and therefore it leads to a belief that the employee has been sacked for a wrong-doing, which may perhaps be serious, while his defence given to the employer could have been valid but there is no mention of it. Do you agree with me that such a notice is indeed defamatory and I can sue the employer? What about suing the newspaper as well?
MAK, Dar

Defamation is a false statement that harms a person’s reputation. The tort of defamation has two wings. Slander refers to a false statement that is spoken and harms a person’s reputation while libel refers to a false statement that is written and harms a person’s reputation. In your case, you feel that a publication of a public notice by the employer to inform the public that a certain employee is no longer its employee and, further, to exculpate itself from any potential liability against any person who will transact with that former employee is libelous.

Whether a Public Notice is defamatory or otherwise will depend on its wording. Unfortunately, you have not given us the full wording and hence we can only guide you based on what you have told us. If what is stated in the publication constitutes the truth and only the truth, then the defendant cannot normally be held liable for defamation. However, if one can connote something else out of reading the notice, then there is a likelihood that you have a cause of action especially if right thinking or reasonable minded persons would be able to read between the lines. All in all it is very difficult to conclude based on what you have told us if there is a cause of action or not.

On whom you can sue, Tanzanian law allows you to sue the newspaper, publisher, the editor and even the distributor.

Reimbursement of fare for remaining distance

I was travelling to my native village with the entire family. Firstly, we were embarrassed before departure as the bus was delayed for almost two hours. Secondly, while on route, the bus underwent two breakdowns. The second breakdown resulted in us having to stay on the roadside for five hours though we were only fifty kilometres away from our village. We then decided to get off the bus and take alternative transport for the remaining distance and asked the bus conductor to pay back a proportionate fare for the remaining distance but he refused and insisted that we should wait. Was the conductor justified? 
RB, Dodoma

The conductor was not justified to refuse your request. The Transport Licensing (Public Service Vehicles) Regulations, 2020, (the Regulations) provide that a licensee who has issued a ticket to a passenger, should provide transport services in accordance with terms and conditions of licence and timetable approved by the Land Transport Regulatory Authority (the Authority). The Regulations further provide that where the licensee fails to provide inter-city or inter-national transport services to a passenger within 1 hour from the specified time of departure, the licensee should refund to the passenger the full fare unless the passenger voluntarily agrees to wait for the licensee to provide alternative transport.

While en route and stuck due to a mechanical breakdown, the licensee is required, within 2 hours, either to provide alternative transport; or let passengers to look for alternative transport and within 7 days refund fare equivalent to the remaining distance. Thus, the bus owner was duty bound to refund you the proportionate bus fare for the remaining 50 kilometers within 7 days. If that has not happened you can write to the Authority for them to take action.

Corporal punishment in schools

My son aged 6 years has refused to go to school because his class teacher strikes him. Do we have any law that regulates administration of corporal punishment in schools? Does the law allow striking a child who is only 6 years old? I find this a colonial practice which has no room in our society anymore.
HU, Tanga

Administration of corporal punishment at schools is regulated by the Education (Corporal Punishment) Regulations, 2002. Under the Regulations only the head of school is allowed to administer corporal punishment. However, other teachers can  administer corporal punishment to a pupil or student with a written authorisation of the head of school. Corporal punishment is inflicted only where there is a serious breach of school code of discipline or grave offence committed whether within or outside the school which is deemed by the school to have brought or capable of bringing the school into disrepute.

In administering corporal punishment, the head of school or a teacher appointed in writing by the head of school to administer corporal punishment should consider the gravity of the offence, age, health and sex of the pupil or the student offender. The maximum strokes a pupil or student can undergo at a time is 4.

The law does not allow striking a nursery school pupil. A primary school pupil can undergo corporal punishment but the teacher administering corporal punishment should be mindful of the age of the pupil and his/her health in deciding whether or not the pupil should undergo corporal punishment and the number of strokes to be imposed on the pupil.

Moreover, a female pupil or student may only receive corporal punishment from a female teacher. Where there is no female teacher at the school, the head of school himself may administer corporal punishment or he may appoint in writing a male teacher to administer the punishment.

Additionally, each school should maintain a register of corporal punishments. Every time corporal punishment is administered, it should be recorded in the register by stating the name of the pupil offender, disciplinary offence committed, the number of strokes inflicted and the name of the teacher who administered the punishment. Every entry in the corporal punishment book must be verified and signed by the head of school.

Corporal punishment in schools has been banned in many African countries but there are a few that still allow it to be imposed.