Members of the House of Representatives and the Isles government were at loggerheads on Thursday night when debating an amendment on the tourism Act which almost ended up in barring mainlanders from securing jobs in Zanzibar.
The debate culminated in voting by the members to decide whether Mainlanders should continue to seek employment in the tourism sector in Zanzibar or they should instead be banned so as to retain the jobs for Zanzibaris.
The episode came after Ismael Jussa Ladhu (Stone Town, CUF) asked the House to consider a section that provides for procedures of employment in the tourism sector when it sat as a committee to approve amendment on the Tourism Act, No. 6 of 2009.
Jussa said Section 23 (3) of the Bill states that an employee in the tourism sector must be Tanzanian.
“This word Tanzanian must be cancelled and be replaced by the word Zanzibari in order to protect employment for the islanders,” Jussa said.
The Bill’s Section 23 (3) states that “Any person who does tourism business who has employed a person who is not Tanzanian to serve him, must receive written permit from the minister after proving to him that there is no person from within Zanzibar to fill the vacancy.”
Jussa said to allow people from the Mainland to work in the tourism sector, was to make foreigners profiteer from the sector, while many Zanzibaris do not have jobs.
The representative said since Zanzibar was a small country, it must have its procedures of protecting jobs for the interests of its people.
However, defending the Union, Culture and Sports minister Abdillah Jihad Hassan, said it was impossible to ban people from the Mainland to access and benefit with employment from Zanzibar because that would be tantamount to going against the international labour laws.
Tanzania Mainland and Zanzibar, he said, have signed international labour laws and it was impossible to amend laws that go against the international legal regime taking into account that Zanzibar was part of the Union government.
Jihadi said if the government of Zanzibar would approve the bill, it will only create a great contradiction in its implementation.
“We want people from the Mainland to continue benefiting from employment through the tourism sector in Zanzibar,” he noted.
Jihadi’s stand was supported by Isles Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Abubakari Khamis Bakari who said approving such a bill would bring about contradiction in implementing the laws.
He said however that the most important thing is to have regulations that will help Zanzibaris to be given priority when it comes to employment issues in the Isles tourism sector.
But Jussa and other House members from Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) went on to put more pressure, prompting the Zanzibar Attorney General Othman Masoud Othman to stand and declare that it was impossible to have a law that prohibits people from the Mainland to access employment in the Isles.
“If we do that, we shall create a very big Union problem. What if the Union government decides also to ban employment of Zanzibaris on the Mainland?” the AG queried.
Othman said as Tanzania was heading to the East African Common Market it is not worth to have such a law within the boundaries of the Union.
In the circumstances Chairman of the House of Representatives, Mgeni Hassan Juma decided that members should vote on the motion—that is those who are for mainlanders securing jobs against those who were not.
In the first round, the results 20 votes for and the remaining 20 against, but in the repeat, the government won by one vote.
This was made possible only after seven more Representatives entered the House to make the total number 47.
Announcing the results, Clerk to the House Yahaya Khamis Hamad said those who supported the motion got 21 votes against 22 who were against.
CCM members who said Mainlanders should not get jobs in Zanzibar were Asha Bakari Makame (Special Seats), Hamza Hassan Juma (Kwamtipura, CCM) Makame Mbarouk Mshimba (Kitope, CCM) and some members from the Civic United Front, Zanzibar.
Commenting on what if the Isles government would have approved the amendment, Natural Resources and Tourism minister Ezekiel Maige said his ministry does not have plans to ban islanders from securing jobs in the travel sector.
“We want them. If the ban is on their side it is up to them, but we need to work with fellow Tanzanians. Let them come and work here as far as they abide by labour laws. My duty is to promote tourism,” he said.
Maige said almost 90 percent of the sector is operated by the private sector.
“Note—we don’t want to harbour any interest of dividing people. We encourage foreigners to come. We don’t want to go back to protectionist and conservative policies at this age especially where we are heading to the East African Common Market,” Maige said.
Tourism sector contributes 25 percent to it’s the Isles economy and 73 percent of foreign currency come from it. It has granted jobs to 12,000 people and over 44,000 including fishermen, farmers and livestock keepers benefit through it.