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Talks drag on as shopkeepers’ strike enters second day

Dar es Salaam. Some stores remained closed in several locations on Tuesday as the merchants’ strike entered its second day, even as leaders remained optimistic that ongoing meetings will soon produce positive results.

In Kariakoo, Dar es Salaam, some traders had closed their businesses since Monday to pressure the government to address their grievances, including allegations that the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) was harassing them by deploying a task force who confiscated their products.

As of Tuesday, the strike had spread to some areas of Mbeya, Dodoma and Mwanza, but other traders opened their shops as usual in some towns in Dar es Salaam, including Kariakoo, Tandika, Mbagala and Tegeta.

The National President of the Traders, Mr. Khamis Livembe, said The citizen on Tuesday that negotiations with several line ministries have yielded some positive results.

“We have managed to agree on some areas. Now it is a question of how to implement them,” she said.

Livembe added that the group and the government have agreed on a number of issues since last year.

“Seriously, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said by phone from Dodoma.

Livembe leads a team of trader representatives from various regions of the country in negotiations with the government.

So far, he said, the team has held talks with officials from the ministries of Finance, Trade and Industry, Planning and Investment and the Prime Minister’s Office, as well as the Attorney General.

The latter was also scheduled to meet and hold talks with the Parliamentary Budget Committee on Tuesday.

This comes as Parliament is scheduled to approve Tanzania’s Sh49.35 trillion budget for the 2024/25 fiscal year today, after several days of debating the plan.

Livembe said his team will also hold talks with Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa on the matter.

“After all the talks and meetings that will conclude today (Tuesday) night, we will be in a position to say what has been agreed,” he said.

He advised his fellow traders to start opening their shops while negotiations continue because the strike has already had negative results for several customers who buy their products at Kariakoo.

A spot check in Kariakoo on Tuesday revealed that most shops remained closed, destabilizing the empire of supply and demand and driving up prices of some products such as women’s clothing and other items.

Some merchants who spoke with The citizen On Tuesday they said their strike would continue until the government sees a need and responds to their concerns, saying they were willing to suffer losses.

“No trader wants to suffer losses for two consecutive days, but if you see such decisions, it means that traders are tired of promises that are not implemented,” said Ahmed Ally.

He said they were waiting for the government’s statement on the challenge which has already had an impact in other regions where traders have also started to close their shops.

For her part, Mrs. Efrasia Msina said The citizen“I have come to Kariakoo to buy women’s clothing which is commonly known as vijora But by opening fewer stores, prices have risen.”

Before the strike, it was sold for 5,000 shillings, but with several shops closed, prices have risen to 5,500 shillings.

“Although I have already received orders from my customers, I have to return until the strike ends because I will not make any profit if I buy them at that price,” he said.

An unsigned flyer circulated on social media last Friday urging business owners in Kariakoo, Dar es Salaam and other parts of the country to keep their shops closed indefinitely from Monday until all their complaints had been addressed.

However, on Monday night the government said it would suspend electronic tax device (EFD) inspection activities and electronic tax stamp activities carried out by TRA across the Kariakoo Revenue Region.

Minister of State, Office of the President (Planning and Investment), Professor Kitila Mkumbo, said the exercise will be carried out through an appropriate procedure that was being prepared for Kariakoo traders.

He outlined some resolutions of a meeting between the merchant leaders and the government. The meeting was convened by Finance Minister Mwigulu Nchemba, Trade and Industry Minister Ashatu Kijaji and other senior government officials.

Traders want the government to put all taxes in a single collection basket, while the fines imposed on them when they go against trading rules should also be reduced to the level of traffic violations.

They also affirm that the issuance of receipts should not be considered another tax because, for them, they are like a new form of harassment. They want the TRA to stop a trend of confiscating their products and their (the TRA’s) tendency to refuse to accept traders’ financial statements that have been prepared by registered accounting professionals.

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