Q&A – 28 January 2013

Refusal to give revenue documents to labour officer

I am a businesswoman now in Mwanza having opened an office here. My main business is importation and sell of myriad merchandise from China. I have seven Tanzanians who I have employed as my assistants. Recently a person who identified himself as a labour officer came over in my office and requested various books and documents. He said he was there to ensure compliance of labour laws. I gave him the documents he needed but I declined to give him books showing revenues of the business. He said he will take a legal action against me? Was does the law say?
QL, Dar es Salaam

Under the Labour Institutions Act, Act No 7 of 2004, for the purposes of administration of labour laws, a labour officer may at any reasonable time enter any premises with a prescribed certificate of authorization and require any person who has control over any information, book, document or object to furnish it and explain any entry in the information, book or document or on the object. These powers are provided under Section 45 of the Labour Institutions Act and extend to seizure or making copies of any information, book, document or object. However for clarity purposes Labour Institutions Act has made it clear that any information, book or document, sample or object shall be relevant to the enforcement and administration of the labour law.

If the officers demands were for books and information that was not relevant to Labour, we entirely agree with you to have declined to give the revenue books to this labour officer. We do not see the relevance of these revenue books as far as enforcement and administration of the labour laws is concerned unless you have not told us all the facts.

Even though under the Labour Institutions Act it is an offence to refuse to produce a document required by the labour officer, it is clearly provided under Section 49 of the same law that it shall not be an offence to refuse to answer a question or produce any information, book, document or object if there is a lawful ground for the refusal.

We do not see any likelihood of successful legal action to be taken against you as you have a lawful ground for refusing to give revenue books to the labour officer. Things would have been different if the books were required by the Tanzania Revenue Authority officials. If you have the name of the labour officer, don’t be shy in reporting him to the labour commissioner. Your lawyers can also guide you further.

Refusal to register foreign company

I went to the business registry BRELA and was told that I could not register a company with majority shareholders who are foreign. I am quite shocked that Tanzania is still practicing such restrictive practice in business. What should I do?
TU, Dar

You could not have gone to BRELA and gotten this information. Registering a company with majority foreign shareholders is allowed in Tanzania. Infact Tanzania is inviting companies to come register here and start a business.

Tanzania does not have any restrictive practices in business. You probably either went to the wrong office or met the wrong person at BRELA. We suggest you meet any of the deputy registrars or the registrar himself. A lawyer can also guide you on the steps to take to register your company. The process is quite straight forward.

Shower too hot

I came to Dar and stayed at a top notch hotel. When taking a hot shower, I burnt myself very badly as the shower water was very hot. I talked to the hotel boss that as part of compensation he allows me to stay free for one week but he is refusing. I have reported him to the Tanzania Tourist Board but they have not taken any action. What should I do?
PL, Dar

In the showers that we know of, there are two knobs- one for cold water and the other for hot water. We are sure the “top notch” hotel you stayed in would have the same facility. Hence we are unsure how you burnt yourself in the shower? That is probably what the hotel owner is asking himself. Whilst we do sympathize with you, it is unlikely that you will recover if it was your own fault.

If the shower on its own suddenly changed from hot to extremely hot, then you might not be responsible and a cause of action against the hotel does exist. You can then surely sue but we suggest you consult your attorney before making any moves.

Power cut in operating theatre

One of my relatives was being operated upon when power failed. The hospitals generator was not working and it was by mere luck that our relative survived. He had to be flown out for treatment and spent about 6 weeks in hospital. Can we take the hospital to task?
OM, Dar

It is known that there are frequent power shortages in Dar and for a hospital that has a theatre not to have a back up generator or have a generator that does not work is extremely dangerous and also highly negligent of the hospital.

From the facts you have given us, we believe you have a very good case in which you can claim all kinds of damages. However Tanzanian Courts are not known to give large amounts in damages. Your lawyer can guide you further.