‘Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.” (Mat 22:21) This is the response of Jesus when his enemies tried to trap him by asking whether it was right for the Jews, whose nation had been taken over by the Roman Empire, to pay tribute to the Roman emperor. This realization of taxation seems to be feasible in the Ugandan context where the waiver of taxation on mobile money and social media is causing disarray in the Country. Asserting that “internet use for educational, research or reference purposes…must remain free,” the President wrote, “however, olugambo on social media (opinions, prejudices, insults, friendly chats) and advertisements by Google must pay tax because we need resources to cope with the consequences of their lugambo.”
As soon as the tax took effect on 1st July, there was a national outcry from citizens many describing it as an enemy of progress and an attack on the right to freedom of speech guaranteed in the Constitution. Although the Minister of Information Technology and Communications Hon. Frank Tumwebaze defended the new levy arguing that the revenue generated would improve internet connectivity and penetration in the country, that didn’t assuage lawyers, politicians, pundits and activists who have since not ceased calling upon the government to scrap the unfair tax.
As the youth article entails, the tax is bound to affect both adult and youth. First, the vices in communities will not be effectively unearthed which is to the disadvantage of many and to the advantage of the few perpetuators. Justice has been given to many because of vices often exposed through social media crucial issues in communities have been addressed too due to it’s viral nature. Students and lecturers rely on the same for communication. The tax therefore seems to be hampering the visibility of many who may not easily access other medias of communication. Many are just reacting to the economic burden levied on citizens. But is the economic gain the only motivation or there are other camouflaged issues? Many oppressive regimes have prohibited social media for security reasons.
The social media can be a very strong weapon for organizing demonstrations, protests and exposing the corruption of ruling parties. The Arab Spring in Northern Africa was orchestrated mainly by social media. According to experts in security issues, that may be what pushed the government of Museveni to impose tax on social media with the excuse of economic advantage.
The tax levy on innocent Ugandans could be described more like our Cover story – the Homegrown and Homemade slavery. Slavery comes in many forms; taxation, restrictions of freedom of speech, movement, worship, association that make nationals slaves in their own country. Much as the letter to the Romans reminds us to “let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God and those which exists are established by God.” (Rom. 13:1), we should be reminded that Charity indeed beings at home!
The Catholic Church doctrine is very sensitive on issues that degrade the human person. For the last centuries the Authorities in the Catholic Church openly denounce and abhor slavery or any other practice that touch the dignity of the human person created in the Image of God: IMAGO DEI. As Pope Francis said recently “I ask leaders and legislators and the entire international community above all to face the challenges that are emerging from modern forms of persecution, oppression and slavery”. Indeed we all have the Evangelical obligation to uplift the dignity of the human person which carries the image of God!
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