Pare people in Tanzania defeat new tax system, 1945-46

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Timing
Time Period:  
4 January
1945
to
July
1946
Location and Goals
Country: 
Tanzania
Location City/State/Province: 
Same
Goals: 
Repeal the mbiru (graduated tax rate) system, end forced labor demands of colonial authorities
 

In the 1940s the British colonial government in Tanzania proposed the implementation of mbiru, which was a graduated local tax system. On 14 July 1944, delegates from nine chiefdoms in Tanzania met and drew up their objections on the mbiru ta system, noting that the tax was foreign and un-African. The delegates sent letters to the Chief Secretary in Dar es Salaam to voice their objections about the mbiru tax.

The letters were ignored.

On 4 January 1945, Daudi Sekimanga, the chief of Mamba, held a tax baraza during which the people were required to pay the tax. Some people attended, but refused to pay the tax.

The chief arrested forty-four of those who had neglected to pay the tax and sent them to Same to have them conscripted for labor. Three hundred men who had been at the baraza then marched to Same to demonstrate their solidarity with the men who had been arrested. On the way, they called out the Pare war cry, lukunga, to mobilize others to join the march to Same.

By 6 January 1945, several thousand men had marched to Same and demonstrated their rejection of mbiru at the district headquarters. The Director of Intelligence and Security estimated the number to be between 2,000 and 3,000 demonstrators while Pare demonstrators estimated the crowd to be between 10,000 and 12,000 in number.

At the demonstration in Same, a retired Seventh Day Adventist preacher named Paulo Kajiru Mashambo emerged as the leader. Paulo had been one of the original forty-four arrested and was chosen as the spokesman of the people. Paulo encouraged the demonstrators to “pray every morning, love one another, maintain peace and return anything they found not belonging to them.”

The Pare men set up temporary camps at the foothill near the district headquarters. Every morning, the demonstrators would come together in front of the camps and Paulo or one of his assistants would address them. Afterwards, they would march to the district office and ask the government administrators to hear them and their complaints. After the office closed, the demonstrators would march back to the camps. In the evenings and on the weekends the Pare men would sing and make speeches.

On 20 February 1945, the District Commissioner, Chief Kibacha (as President of Pare Council), and the Inspector of Police were at the district headquarters with Chief Sabuni of Usangi. Around 500 Pare women gathered around the headquarters and sang songs, waiting for the district commissioner to come out and explain the mbiru tax system.

When the party came out of the headquarters, the district commissioner attempted to leave without addressing the women. The women then mobbed the officials and threw stones at them. The district commissioner was able to leave, but the two chiefs and the Sub-Inspector of Police were left behind.

The women reassembled the next morning outside of Chief Sabuni’s house and continued to sing songs. The following morning, the women reassembled once again, but police arrived at the scene as well to disperse the unarmed women and free Sabuni from his house.

During this time, as well as afterwards, the women launched a domestic strike, refusing to carry out their usual chores of cooking and fetching water. The women also refused to carry out forced labor in the agricultural schemes.

The Pare men who marched every working morning to the district office continued to do so until March 1945, at which time a lawyer named Mohamed Hussein was hired to petition on behalf of the Pare. Hussein agreed to work with the Pare as long as the Pare stopped their demonstrations and returned home. Therefore, the first demonstration and occupation ended on 3 March 1945.

On 13 March 1945, Hussein wrote to the Pare Council declaring his position as the Pare lawyer and informing him of the action the Pare intended to take of submitting a petition.

Two months later, the Chief Secretary answered the letter and petition, stating that the government had no intention of reversing the mbiru system.

By September 1945, the Pare concluded that the best way to get a hearing from the British colonial government would be to hire a European lawyer who would know the ways of the Europeans. Therefore, the Pare hired a British firm called Reid and Edmonds. Reid sent a petition to the government on 27 October 1945. In the petition, Reid noted that the Pare were dissatisfied and distrustful of the district as a whole; Reid pleaded for action to restore conditions to the way they were before.

Throughout the period between November 1945 and June 1946, the anti-mbiru leaders made speeches and showed their general discontent with the mbiru tax system. The district administrators attempted to prosecute anti-mbiru leaders for their speeches and prosecuted people for burning the houses of Africans loyal to the British.

On 3 July 1946, the new district commissioner and his wife had gone to Gonja, a chiefdom in South Pare, to attend a baraza. Around 230 people were at the baraza, many of whom did not pay the mbiru.

The new district commissioner chose one of the people who had refused to pay the tax and tried him on the spot, sentencing him to three months’ imprisonment with hard labor. The district commissioner arrested the man and left Bombo for Same.

The people who had been at the baraza followed behind the district commissioner and attempted to obstruct the lorry from leaving with the arrested man. The lorry drove through the crowd and continued on to the Same; the crowd followed on foot.

By 5 July 1946, a crowd of 300 protestors had gathered at Same, which began the second demonstration. On 10 July 1946, under the leadership of Paulo Mashambo, they went to see the district commissioner. They demanded food and for a latrine to be built for them and desired a response to the petition that Reid had sent. The demonstration lasted until the end of July, but no specific date is given.

The result of this second demonstration was that the Pare Council started holding barazas to discuss the mbiru tax. After these baraza surveys, it was concluded that the mbiru system would not work successfully in the current environment of dissatisfaction and discontent. The Pare went back to the flat rate of tax in 1947, though the tax was now raised by two shillings.

Research Notes
Sources: 
Berger, Iris, and E. Frances. White. "Women in East and Southern Africa." Women in Sub-Saharan Africa: Restoring Women to History. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1999. 47-48. Print.

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Falola, Toyin, and Nana Akua. Amponsah. "Women and Government." Women's Roles in Sub-Saharan Africa. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood, 2012. 158-60. Print.

George-Williams, Desmond. Bite Not One Another: Selected Accounts of Nonviolent Struggle in Africa. Addis Ababa: University for Peace, Africa Programme, 2006. Print.

Hay, Margaret Jean, and Sharon Stichter. "African Women in Politics." African Women South of the Sahara. London [etc.: Longman, 1984. 144-47. Print.

Höschele, Stefan. "Tanzanian Adventists and Public Matters." Christian Remnant-African Folk Church: Seventh-Day Adventism in Tanzania, 1903-1980. Leiden: Brill, 2007. 374-76. Print.

Kimambo, Isaria N. "Mbiru: Popular Protest Against an Oppressive Colonial System, 1944-1947." Penetration & Protest in Tanzania: The Impact of the World Economy on the Pare, 1860-1960. London: J. Currey, 1991. 95-117. Print.

Smith, Bonnie G. "Imperialism and Colonialism: Anticolonial Protests." The Oxford Encyclopedia of Women in World History. Oxford [England: Oxford UP, 2008. 541. Print.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Yein Pyo, 11/11/2012