Q&A – 30 January 2023

Sue neighbour shop for damages

For thirty years I have been living in the ‘rural’ area of Dar es Salaam. I had a big parcel of land and have recently decided to chop it into pieces for sale following a threat of confiscation by the local government. Over the last ten years, until two years ago, I have been running a shop profitably without any competitor. Two years ago, a man, among the people I sold the land to, opened a bigger shop beside mine and has intentionally reduced prices to lure customers. My profit per month has dropped tremendously. I want to sue the man for loss of profit. Please advise me on the possibility of success.  
MI, Dar  

At the outset we respond that the possibility of succeeding in the case against your fellow shop owner is very minimal if at all. There is a legal maxim ‘damnum sine injuria’ which refers to damages without injury or damages in which there is no infringement of any legal right which is vested with the plaintiff. Since no legal right has been infringed so no action lies in the cases of damnum sine injuria. The general principle on which this maxim is based is that if one exercises her/his common or ordinary rights, within reasonable limits, and without infringing other’s legal right; such an exercise does not give rise to an action in tort in favour of that other person. Damages can be in the form of any substantial harm or loss suffered from respect to the money, comfort, health, etc.

In your case, it is true that the act of the fellow shop owner to open a shop beside yours has caused you damages in terms of reduced profit but there is no infringement of any legal right vested with you. Your fellow shop owner hasn’t contravened any law and for that matter you don’t have any plausible cause of action against him. Even if the act of reducing price was intentional, the Court will not grant any damages to you. The only leeway is for you to prove that the fellow shop owner is consistently undercutting prices below cost prices to drive out competition, which may be illegal under our competition laws. Your lawyer can guide you further.

Marrying a foreign woman

I am working with a non-governmental organisation in the Lake Zone. There is one beautiful expatriate lady who has fallen deeply in love with me. The lady is my officemate and her tenure in Tanzania will expire mid this year. She loves Tanzania very much and has proposed to marry me but one of her friends has informed her that a condition to get married to a Tanzanian is to denounce her foreign citizenship. Why is the law so irrational?
AR, Mwanza

There is no such law and you can get married to your officemate without her having to renounce her citizenship. If such a law existed, many Tanzanian men would have been in trouble! Steps you need to undertake to get married are below.

The first step, prior to getting married in Tanzania, is for your fiancée to get a Certificate of No Impediment from her home country. This is a legal document, which needs to be translated into English or Swahili (in case her country is not an English or Swahili speaking country) and it must state that there is no impediment to her marriage because either she has never been married or she is divorced or is widowed. In the case that she is a divorcee or a widow, she will be required to attach relevant documents to substantiate the assertions. In essence, a certificate of no impediment is an affidavit notarised by a notary public. For countries with embassies in Tanzania, the Consular Section at the Embassy can serve as the notary. The lady should also have her birth certificate.

After obtaining a certificate of no impediment, you will be required to contact the office of the District Commissioner (or Registrar of Marriages) nearest to your wedding location to notify the government of your intention to get married. At the Registrar of Marriages you must complete the necessary forms, pay a small fee and submit the following documents: notarised copy of passports, the certificate of no Impediment, and two passport photos each. You may be asked for more documents at the discretion of the Registrar.

Once you have notified the Registrar, you must wait for 21 days so that persons with adverse information may register their complaints. We know that this is an old tradition that has pretty much been phased out in most Western countries but it is still part of Tanzanian law. However, to avoid the 21 day waiting period, you may get a waiver by applying for a ‘special marriage license’ from the Registrar. After completing the application form for a special marriage license and paying the fee, the Registrar can issue the license and you can be married at any point.

The third step is getting married! After the lapse of 21 days or the granting of the special marriage license, you need to schedule a time for your wedding with the Registrar. The civil ceremony can be done at the Registrar’s office during working hours or you can arrange a time for the Registrar to come to your location; but the latter option will require an extra fee and transportation costs for the government officials. At the actual ceremony, the couple must have two witnesses of their choice, one for each, who can be residents or non-residents. A Tanzanian marriage certificate (in duplicate) will be issued upon completion of the ceremony. Your lawyer or wedding organisers can guide you further. We wish you all the best.