Kampala is a city of rumours. Oh boy, we parrot a lot around here. And this did not start yesterday. Because like Rome, the city was originally built on seven hills, it was called the city of seven hills by the colonialists.
And when they left, the quarrelsome independence leaders dubbed Kampala the city of seven rumours- per day. And now we went digital. So Kampala made a quantum leap to become the city of seven million rumours per day.
It is those seven million rumours that the government has decided to tax. Over the past couple of months, the country’s big men have been engaged in discussions and arguments about the impending national budget.
Two months ago, the rumour started - yes it was a rumour like the other seven million daily ones - that the government was plotting to tax Facebook usage. And soon enough, like some rumours do, it turned out to be true.
A couple of official explanations were given. One was that there was need to reduce on gossip, which wastes a lot of time that Ugandans would otherwise spend digging in their shambas and other gainful activities.
The second was that the government needs to raise more revenue, so as to bridge the funding gap in the budget, as demands for higher wages mount from different sections of public servants. There is also the little matter of the huge debt burden, now hovering around twelve billion dollars.
So now it is official. Everybody who uses WTF will be paying a daily fee, which amounts to about one dollar a month. There are some 22 million phone accounts in the country and while most people have nothing to do with Twitter and Facebook, it is difficult to find somebody who is not using WhatsApp on the simplest phones.
So, some 20 million dollars a month are going to be harvested from our gossip, called ‘lugambo’ in popular vernacular. That is a quarter of a billion dollars in year. Any government would love that kind of money.
For you can bet you pension, the people are not going to stop gossiping, just because of one dollar per month.
Indeed, gossip pays. And you know who gossips most and wants to share photos of her baby several times a day. What would governments do without women?
Starting July, the authorities have proposed daily olugambo taxation of UGX 100 (KSh3) daily on each SIM card that is used for social media.
Put differently, Museveni wants to tax opinions, insults, prejudices and those unnecessary friendly chats.