By Benson Tumusiime
Renown City activist lawyer, Turyakira John Robert has castigated Government’s ‘appetite’ to ‘simply’ collect taxes without due diligence to citizens’ wellbeing.
Counsel Turyakira said this on Friday while appearing as a panelist at the popular weekly show,The Pan-African pyramid debate hosted by Speaker Andrew Irumba at Fairway Hotel. Last Friday’s topic was on whether the introduction of the new Social media tax hinders freedom of speech, Economic growth and innovation of African youth.
Without mincing words, looking very disappointed and charged to the marrows, Turyakira took to the podium and expressed his discontentment about the fact that Government’s pre-occupation of late has simply become ‘tax collection’, to the extent that they can tax someone for expressing their opinions [via social media platforms]!
“Mr.speaker, when the president recently said that he was going to tax ‘lugambo’ I thought he was simply joking, but who is that with authority to categorize my communication with another as ‘lugambo’ then his as ‘constructive’ communication?,” he wondered.
Turyakira said Government is a signatory of various international statutes, especially the protection and defense of freedom of speech. “That Right [to speak] is inherent, it’s not given by anybody but God. Government’s responsibility is to defend that Right, but now they’ve decided to tax us for speaking! That appetite must be fought with all manner of resistance,” Counsel Turyakira submitted.
He also decried that even when citizens are forced to pay those taxes, value for money is zero. “Mr.Speaker, my second disappoint is that even when we pay the social media tax and other taxes, there isn’t so much you’re going to see in terms of service delivery, same people are going to increase their salaries instead, they’ve already increased their allowances the other day, mr.speaker”, he said.
Counsel Robert who is among the five lawyers who took Government to court last week over the newly introduced social media tax warned Government to stop imposing ‘illegal’ taxes on Ugandans or else it will face resistance through legal battles where it will lose more money in compensation. Last week lawyers took Government to court seeking court to declare the newly introduced tax as illegal and therefore scrap it off.
Meanwhile, Kyambogo University Don and senior administrator cum Pan-Africanist Mr.David Kasuti challenged the lawyer and said that what Ugandans should demand from Government is accountability [service delivery],not scrapping off the taxes because there is no country in the world that doesn’t collect taxes. “These lawyers are demanding for what isn’t possible and leaving what’s possible, [I’m glad I’m not their learned fellow],You can’t ask Government to stop collecting taxes, what you can demand is accountability,” Kasuti said amidst resistance from the audience.
Kasuti also revealed that he had realized of late that this generation has ‘done’ everything possible to disconnect itsef and think they understand more than the past generations, yet in actual sense they need the old generation’s wisdom more than ever! “I don’t understand, these youth every time they are speaking they say ‘this is our generation’, they forget that their generation needs the generation they found on earth more,” he said.
In march 2018, president Museveni complained that many youths spend a lot of time gossiping on social media platforms and warned that he would levy a tax on their ‘lugambo’. Consequently,he directed the finance minister to do due process and come up with paper work on the same.
Since its introduction on July 1st,many Ugandans have resorted to using Virtual private Network (VPN) to evade the tax.
About 17 million of the country’s 41 million people access internet service. Government expects to collect about Shs 800 Billion in the current financial year from social media tax.
Other seasoned debaters that attended include Nelson Agaba a law student at Uganda Christian University – Mukono, Denis Obita from The Uganda we want, UBC’s Bonny Ocheng and Sunday Elias-a journalist among others.
Turyakira John Robert is a senior Human Rights lawyer from Kiiza and Mugisha Company Advocates and a member of Network For Public Interest Lawyers (NETPIL), who took Government to court last year over closer of Makerere University and the Doctors’ strike. Under their Law firm, Kiiza &Mugisha Company Advocates.
He is also legal & Corporate Affairs Officer at Prime Housing Estates Ltd.
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