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andrew mwenda
Mr Andrew Mwenda is the CEO of the Independent Magazine. Courtesy photo

Andrew Mwenda's Frank Memo to Opponents of the Social Media Tax

You have failed to find someone with well reasoned arguments like mine. That is why you are stuck on this page hoping against hope that someday I can post something that echoes your feelings. Unlikely!
posted onJuly 6, 2018

By Andrew M. Mwenda

For the last two days you have been hurling insults and abuses at me for defending the tax on social media. You have no intellectual or factual arguments to counter mine. So the only thing you do is attack my person, not my arguments. I know you get emotional satisfaction out of it but that will not take away the tax you claim to hate.

I am also aware that you are always looking for someone to echo your feelings and frustrations about public policy issues. You have failed to find someone with well reasoned arguments like mine. That is why you are stuck on this page hoping against hope that someday I can post something that echoes your feelings. Unlikely!

You should know that your feelings are not a substitute for reality. Your views which are driven by your hearts rather than by your minds are based on ignorance. My arguments make you angry because deep inside, you know I am telling you the unpleasant truths, truths that cannot be challenged with counter arguments hence your anger that drives you to insults and name calling.

For starters, I actually share many of your frustrations with President Yoweri Museveni’s government. Like you, I see it as corrupt and incompetent. Where we diverge is on the alternative. For you, everyone who criticizes Museveni and regurgitates your frustrations is automatically a better alternative.

That simplistic approach to our politics is what helped Idi Amin capture power in 1971 and wreck havoc on our country. It is the same mentality that actually helped Museveni rise to power, regurgitating platitudes against corruption, election rigging, dictatorship etc all of which he has repeated in worse form than Milton Obote.

The thing is that most of you think the problems of Uganda emanate from a person. So you are always looking for a villain to blame hence your obsession with Museveni. In the same vain you also think the solution is some superman hence your everlasting search for an individual to play the role of a savior. This explains your blind and dangerous embrace of demagogues like Dr. Kizza Besigye and Bobi Wine.

Just because I disagree with Museveni does not mean I should embrace everyone and anyone who criticizes him. I want to listen to an informed voice offering serious alternatives, not platitudes. I tolerate Museveni’s weaknesses knowing that they reflect deeply rooted structural problems in our society.

You embrace demagogues like Besigye and Bobi Wine because they denounce the ills of Museveni. They exploit your feelings to make you love them and you fall for it. Look at their record and conduct and tell me why any right thinking person should listen to them. How different are they from Museveni?


The trick these demagogues use is simple but deceptive. They want your support to get into power. So they tell you what you want to hear. I don’t want or need your support or endorsement for anything. So I tell you what you must hear, what you need to hear.

Here is the lesson: when someone wants to help you, they tell you what you must hear, what you need to hear. That is what I do. But when someone wants to help themselves and/or when they need something from you, they tell you what you want to hear. The fact that you don’t see this only proves that angry people like you are always fodder for power hungry politicians seeking to ride on your back to power.

If you are seriously opposed to this tax and you want it reversed, you don’t need to expend your emotional energy insulting me here. Take political initiative and go on the streets. You used to claim that Kale Kayihura was the one blocking you from protest. Now that he is in jail, you have an opportunity to take over Kampala. And you and your cult leaders are not using it. Why?

Your failure to exercise citizen agency in shaping the destiny of our country only shows that you cannot foster progressive change. You are misguided activists who spit brimstone and fire online but are cowardly in real life. You are terrified of Museveni’s poorly paid, poorly trained and poorly armed police.

Hence rather than challenge Museveni where it matters most - on the streets - you are expending your energies insulting me here because I refuse to buy your complaint that this tax is bad. I think we need more, not less taxes. I believe that Ugandans need to feel the pinch of high taxes daily. That is what will mobilize them to demand accountability and even fight for a better country.

Your anger would have made me a happy man if you took serious political action on the streets. It would have confirmed my theory that taxation is the foundation of democracy and accountability, a subject I have written and spoken about widely. Read my 2006 CATO Institute paper titled “Foreign aid and the weakening of democratic accountability in Uganda.” You will realize this argument I am making in defense of the social media tax is 12 years old.

If you genuinely feel this tax is bad, then you don’t need to insult me but to cause a revolution. Force Museveni to change it or lose power. The streets and bushes are open. Every day you and your cult leaders rant on social and other media, you convince me that Museveni should continue to rule. When he felt elections are rigged and the country is badly governed, he took action and won. You talk and talk and talk and do nothing. That is why Museveni is a happy man because with enemies like you he doesn’t need friends.

Andrew Mwenda is a veteran journalist and businessman 

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