Q&A – 21 February 2022

Consulting witchdoctor for divination

I have been sick for over a year and have taken all kinds of medical examinations but the reports do not reveal the actual disease. I suspect I am bewitched but don’t know who is bewitching me. Since modern medical science is not helping me, is it an offence to consult a witchdoctor for divination in order to know the cause of this illness?
AH, Kigoma

Neither the Witchcraft Act [Cap.18 R.E 2002] nor the Traditional and Alternative Medicine Act, 2002 have provisions that criminalise consulting a witchdoctor for divination for the purpose of knowing the cause of an illness.

However, it is an offence under section 4 of the Witchcraft Act for the witchdoctor, when giving advice to the client, to tell the client that someone is causing his illness by way of witchcraft. Regulation 18(2) of the Traditional and Alternative Medicine (Code of Ethics, Conduct and Practice) Regulations, 2008 requires traditional healers to refrain from involving themselves in any practice which may induce superstition beliefs to the client that his cause of illness is attributed to witchcraft. So the offence is not consulting a witchdoctor but rather the advice that comes from the witchdoctor which is prohibited if it confirms or induces the belief of superstition.

Quality and safety control of COVID-19 herbal medicine

We have seen the Government promoting use of traditional and alternative remedies in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic. Do we have the legal framework to control the safety and quality of the locally produced and distributed herbal medicines believed to be curing or alleviating the severity of COVID-19 symptoms? 
MM, Mwanza

There are two principal legislation that provide a legal framework for control of the quality, efficacy and safety of traditional and alternative medicine in Tanzania. The two legislations are Tanzania Medicines and Medical Devices Act [Cap.219 R.E 2021] and the regulations made under it, and the Traditional and Alternative Medicine Act, 2002. The Tanzania Medicines and Medical Devices Act establishes the Tanzania Medicines and Medical Devices Authority (TMDA) which is the regulatory authority vested with power to control safety, efficacy and quality of herbal drugs, medicines and medical devices. Section 3 of the Act defines the herbal drug as “labelled preparation in pharmaceutical dosage which contains as active ingredients one or more substances of natural origin that are derived from plants”. TMDA therefore regulates safety, efficacy and quality of traditional medicines that are labelled and are in a form of pharmaceutical dosage.

In regulating herbal drugs, the Act requires local manufacturers, suppliers or distributors of herbal drugs to be registered with TMDA before the herbal drug is distributed for use by the population. In addition to that, the law demands that the premises in which the herbal drug is stored, manufactured, supplied or sold also be registered by TMDA. Further, any advertisement, packaging and labelling of traditional medicine requires approval of TMDA.

If the traditional medicine is not labelled and not in pharmaceutical dosage, its quality, efficacy and safety is regulated by the Traditional and Alternative Health Practice Council which is established under the Traditional and Alternative Medicine Act, 2002.

All in all, we confirm that traditional medicines that are locally produced or distributed to fight the COVID-19 pandemic are regulated by TMDA and the Traditional and Alternative Health Practice Council, depending on the nature of the herbal medicine whether it is labeled and in a form of pharmaceutical dosage or not.

Misbehaving during arbitration proceedings

I don’t see police during arbitration proceedings conducted by the Commission for Mediation and Arbitration (CMA). What if someone misbehaves during the proceedings. Can the arbitrator punish him for contempt of the Commission or order his arrest? 
KL, Iringa

It is a contempt for the Commission under section 20(5)(h) of the Labour Institutions Act [Cap.300 R.E 2019] to misbehave in any manner that disrupts arbitration proceedings. The difference between contempt of Court and contempt of the Commission is that when a person commits contempt of Court by disrupting a Court session, he can be charged and convicted without calling witnesses to prove a charge against him. He is only asked to state why he should not be sentenced for contempt of court.

Unfortunately, the CMA does not have such criminal jurisdiction and an arbitrator presiding over the arbitration proceedings cannot impose a punishment on a person for contempt of the Commission. What the arbitrator can do when a person willfully disrupts arbitration proceedings is to call police to arrest the offender and charge him with contempt of the Commission in a criminal Court with competent jurisdiction to convict and punish the offender.

Selling packaged cassava and banana crisps

I want to start a business of making and selling cassava and banana crisps but am hesitant because my friends are telling me that there is a long process of obtaining a licence from the Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS). Is it true that this simple business legally needs getting a licence from TBS?
LK, Mbeya

If the crisps intended to be sold are in the form of processed food in the sense that their shelf life is extended and they are packaged and labeled then such crisps are pre-packaged food for the purposes of standards regulation and the producer must get a licence to fry, distribute or sell them. Pre- packaged food is prescribed under the Standards Act and the Standards (Registration of Premises and Certification of Products) Regulations, 2021 as products regulated by the TBS.

Therefore before commencing this business you need to seek and obtain registration and certification from the TBS. The crisps you want to sell must be registered and even the premises in which you intend to use for frying crisps, storing, selling or distributing crisps must be registered with TBS.

Moreover, even if the crisps are not pre-packaged, the TBS still has the power to inspect them to ensure they meet good hygienic practices. Just to remind you, the TBS licence is in addition to business licence, TIN and other licences that may be required under applicable laws.