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Tanzania: House passes changes to employment laws [the Employment and Labour Laws (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act 2015]

The National Assembly on Monday unanimously endorsed the Employment and Labour Laws (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act 2015, which gives room for employees to choose whether to go on working or go on leave.

Winding up, Minister for Labour and Employment, Ms Gaudencia Kabaka, told the House that the Bill proposed to amend certain labour laws.

Among others, she said the proposed amendment sought to make it possible for an employer to obtain the consent of an employee for the forfeiture of his/her annual leave on certain conditions.

Ms Kabaka said the aim of the amendment was to enable the employer to obtain service from the employee even when he/she was on leave as long as the employee compromised his/her annual leave.

The amendment also gives room for the employee to choose whether she/he wishes to work or go on leave.

The amendments also propose the introduction of a new section in order to confer an over-riding effect to the Employment and Labour Relations Act, where there is conflict with any other written law regarding employment standards stipulated under the Employment and Labour Relations Act She further said that it was proposed to have only two national wage boards, one for public sector and the other for the private sector, so as to have a minimum set of wages, terms and conditions of employment, unlike in the past where there were several such boards.

“Under the proposed amendments the minister will be empowered to appoint Assistant Labour Commissioners who will assist the Labour Commissioner in the performance of his functions,” she said. It was also proposed to give labour officers additional powers to educate, oversee and implement labour laws, to conduct or scrutinize any election or ballot of any registered trade union or employers association by court order or at the request of a respective union or association.

She said that it was also proposed to amend the LAPF Pensions Act, Cap. 407 with a view to expressly providing for the granting of pension to members of the police, prison and fire and rescue forces who retire in accordance with the requirements of the laws governing their engagement.

This is to make it commensurate with the Public Service Retirement Benefits Act, Cap. 371 and will make LAPF Pensions Scheme equally competitive to other pension schemes.

Contributing earlier, Vice-Chairman of the Social Services Committee Albert Obama praised the government for making amendments aimed at improving the condition of employees in the country but said stakeholders had their reservations on the proposed amendment that will grant pension to police force, prison service and fire and rescue, saying it will go against the Social Security Regulatory Authority (SSRA).

Tabora Urban Lawmaker, Ismail Aden Rage (CCM), lauded the government for coming up with amendments, saying it will give room for workers to choose when they wanted to go on leave. However, Rage insisted that at a time when employee decides to forfeit leave he/she should be paid accordingly and in appropriate time.

Source: Daily News (8/7/2015)

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Mramba, Yona jailed three years for office abuse; Mgonja set free

Former Finance Minister Basil Mramba and his Energy and Mineral counterpart Daniel Yona will have to spend the next three years behind bars, serving their jail sentence for abuse of office and subjecting the government to 11.7bn/- loss.

They were convicted in the historical trial related to the procurement of gold assayers firm, Alex Stewart Government Business Corporation.

Observers say this is the first court decision in the judiciary’s history to condemn influential former cabinet ministers to jail on criminal charges.

Two members of a panel hearing the historical case, Judge Sam Rumanyika and Mr Saul Kinemela, who is a senior official in the Labour Commission, convicted the two ex-ministers of the offences after they were satisfied by the evidence given by prosecution witnesses.

In the judgment, the two members of the court who sat at the Kisutu Resident Magistrate’s Court as Principal Resident Magistrates rejected the shield applied by the convicts that President Benjamin Mkapa had authorised the acquisition of the gold assayers company.

“We do not think that the president had directed urgent procurement of the Alex Steward Assayers without following the procedure.

The president, otherwise, should have so directed in express terms,” Judge Rumanyika, declared when reading the judgment.

They further held that the Government Notices that were granted by Mramba for tax exemptions were arbitrarily issued in total disregard of the advice given by the Attorney General (AG) and officers from the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA), leading to pecuniary loss.

The judgment of the court was not commonly reached as one member of the panel, Judge John Utamwa, gave a dissenting judgment. He had differed with others in respect of evidence given to have proved the charges against the two convicts.

However, the court acquitted former Permanent Secretary (PS) with the Treasury, Gray Mgonja, after the prosecution, through its 13 witnesses, miserably failed to prove the charges against him.

Professor Geofrey Shaidi, for the PS, was satisfied with the acquittal of his client. Advocate Peter Swai, for Mramba, told the ‘Daily News’ that he would immediately appeal to the High Court against both conviction and sentence.

Likewise, Counsel Elisa Msuya, for Yona, expressed similar position having been dissatisfied by the judgment. Immediately after delivery of the judgment, some close relatives of the convicts, who had filled the courtroom above capacity, broke into tears, some not believing what was happening.

One of them had to be assisted by others to leave the courtroom after losing control. In the majority judgment, the court convicted Mramba of all 11 counts. He had been charged with 10 counts relating to abuse of office and one count of occasioning loss to the government.

In each count, he was sentenced to three years in jail for each offence. For Yona, the court convicted him of four counts relating to abuse of office and one count of occasioning loss to the government for which it sentenced him to three years in jail for each count.

The court gave the duo an alternative sentence of paying 5m/- fine in respect of occasioning loss count. Before provision of the sentence, advocates Swai and Msuya, requested the court to impose a lenient sentence on the convicts considering their age.

It was said that Mramba is 75 years old while Yona had attained 76 years of age. The advocates submitted that the two ex-ministers have no criminal records and both served the government in various capacities diligently.

According to the counsels, the court should also consider the health conditions their clients were experiencing as they had been frequently seeking permission of the court to go to India for treatment.

On the other hand, Principal State Attorney Tumaini Kweka, for the prosecution, requested the court to hand down appropriate sentence for the convicts according to the law. He asked the court to consider the gravity of the offence committed and the positions held by the convicts.

It was alleged that the two former ministers committed the offences between August 2002 and June 14, 2004, in Dar es Salaam, by giving preferential treatments to M/S Alex Stewart (Assayers) Government Business Corporation.

The case followed three years of investigations by the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) and the police into the suspicious hiring of Alex Stewart (Assayers) Government Business Corporation (ASA) to audit gold production in Tanzania.

The firm was in 2003 controversially assigned through a contract, which saw it receive a whopping of 50 million US dollars in gold audit fees.

It completed the assignment and left the country in August 2007. It is alleged that Gold Assayers Government Business Corporation was paid an average of one million US dollars every month from June 2003 to August 2007.

Source: Daily News (7/7/2015)

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Obergefell v. Hodges: US Supreme Court rules gay marriage is legal nationwide

The US Supreme Court has ruled that same-sex marriage is a legal right across the United States. It means the 14 states with bans on same-sex marriage will no longer be able to enforce them.

States affected:

Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, most of Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that the plaintiffs asked "for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right."

The ruling brings to an end more than a decade of bitter legal battles.

Same-sex couples in several affected states including Georgia, Michigan, Ohio and Texas rushed to wed on Friday.

However officials in other states, including Mississippi and Louisiana, said marriages had to wait until procedural issues were addressed.

President Barack Obama said the ruling was a "victory for America".

"When all Americans are treated as equal, we are all more free " he said.

However, Christian conservatives condemned the decision.

Former Arkansas governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee called it "an out-of-control act of unconstitutional, judicial tyranny".

And Kellie Fiedorek, a lawyer for an anti-gay marriage advocacy group, said the decision "ignored the voices of thousands of Americans".

Greg Abbott, the governor of Texas, a state where marriages licences will now be issued to same-sex couples, said the justices "have imposed on the entire country their personal views on an issue that the Constitution and the Court's previous decisions reserve to the people of the states".

Loud cheers erupted outside the court after the ruling was announced, and there were tears, hugs, and cheers of "USA USA USA!".

A sea of rainbow flags overwhelmed the few anti-gay marriage activists who reacted in disbelief, and the demonstration seemed to turn into a street party.

A tour bus drove past honking as hundreds cheered the decision.

One of the demonstrators, Jordan Monaghan, called his mother from his mobile phone amid the celebrations.

"Hey mom, I'm at the Supreme Court. Your son can have a husband now," Mr Monaghan said.

Minutes after the ruling, couples in one of the states that had a ban, Georgia, lined up in hope of being wed.

In Texas, Yasmin Menchaca and her partner Catherine Andrews told the BBC that they are "trying to round up our parents" in order to get married on Friday.

The two have been together for six years, and had attempted to marry in Washington state - but decided to wait because of the financial burden of flying their parents across the country.

On social media, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton merely tweeted the word "proud" and the White House changed its Twitter avatar into the rainbow colours.

The case considered by the court concerned Jim Obergefell, an Ohio resident who was not recognised as the legal widower of his late husband, John Arthur.

"It's my hope that gay marriage will soon be a thing of the past, and from this day forward it will simply be 'marriage,'" an emotional Mr Obergefell said outside the court.

The first state to allow same-sex marriage was Massachusetts, which granted the right in 2004.
In recent years, a wave of legal rulings and a dramatic shift in public opinion have expanded gay marriage in the US.

In 2012, the high court struck down a federal anti same-sex marriage law.

Source: BBC News: 

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