When the president mentioned that he and his government were planning to tax social media for too much gossip, we laughed, funny memes made rounds on social media because we thought that this move was simply ridiculous. Who taxes end users of social media in 2018? The Civil society met the finance committee of parliament to convince them to drop this unreasonable tax, the committee after listening to the submissions mentioned in their report that the tax was unfair to Ugandan taxpayers. But somehow, out of the 400 members of parliament, only 3 objected to the tax proposal. The tax proposal was passed.
Why? In my opinion, the Members of parliament are self-seeking leeches that suck the blood of Ugandan taxpayers. Members of parliament are most vibrant when fighting to remove taxes from their allowances, and tampering with the constitution. Lately, the MPs are asking for army bodyguards following the assassination of Hon: Abiriga a member of parliament a few weeks ago. The social media tax is here, there is a social media blackout, the only way in is if you pay a tax. This stuff hurts. Do these MPs know that the internet should be open, safe, accessible and affordable and that the internet is no longer a luxury but rather a basic human need?
The president of Uganda is desperate, the song that has been on his lips since being elected for his fifth or is it sixth term- I have lost count, is to usher Uganda into a middle-income status by 2020. Tick-tock the clock is ticking but there no signs of a middle-income status. But I sort of understand where the president is coming from especially that as human beings, we inherently desire to leave a lasting legacy. For 32 years, this damn middle-income status has been elusive, in fact, the economy gets worse every single day; the shilling is struggling, the unemployment rates have skyrocketed, fuel prices have gone gaga, crime rates have risen, poor housing, government schools and health facilities are dilapidated.
When the president and his men took over power in 1986, they found the country in shambles; total breakdown in the rule of law, poverty, disease, bloodstained streets – a reign of terror. They were the much-needed liberators – the country rejoiced, behold a new era of peace and tranquillity. Our dear president I think sometimes feels like a musician who takes centre stage, sings a song, the crowd goes wild chanting “encore encore”, later, the song becomes tasteless and a loud silence follows. The musician tries to make a comeback but no one is chanting for an encore. Some musicians take to drugs; presidents get high on power. And take Nicolo Machiavelli’s advice seriously; “it is better to be feared than to be loved.”
It is seven days now since social media was blacked out. Many Ugandans have refused to pay the tax; they have resolved to use Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). Can you blame them? Experience proves that the taxes will end up in the pockets of a few government officials. These leeches will build large houses with high walls and big cars to push all of us out of traffic during rush hour. Since the year 2000, Uganda has lost over twenty-four trillion shillings to corruption scandals involving high profile Ugandans. Scandal after scandal; In 2007, 247 billion shillings meant for the Common Wealth Heads of States Government meeting disappeared into thin air. In 2008, 25 billion shillings went missing – the money was intended for malaria and tuberculosis drugs programmes. In 2010, the Ugandan government entered a deal illegally with Muhlbauer, a German firm to supply national IDs without the required open bidding – 25 billion shillings was lost in the process. In 2011, Amman industrial Tool and Equipment Ltd was contracted to supply bicycles, not even half a bicycle was delivered, 4 billion shilling was lost as a result. Still, in 2011, 60 billion shillings vanished from the Microfinance Support Centre in a period of three months. In 2012, Shilling 169 billion meant that outstanding claims of East African community workers disappeared. 2015, 18 billion Uganda shillings meant for the construction of the Kanoni-Sembabule road vanished, every year, the Auditor Generals report is full of squander and more squander.
Some sardines have been arrested whereas the whales are roaming free enjoying the proceeds of their corruption while Ugandans continue to wallow in poverty.