Court name
High Court of Tanzania

Republic vs Mabula Mihambo () [1985] TZHC 11 (30 April 1985);

Law report citations
1984 TLR 89 (TZHC)
Media neutral citation
[1985] TZHC 11

Katiti, J.: The accused person Mabula Mihambo, stood before Bunda District Court, charged under  F the provisions of section 20 and 25 of 26 of the Regulations of Prices Act 1973. The charge that provoked curiosity, and hence the revision, was strangely worded, as follows: G
   (1) OFFENCE, SECTION AND LAW:
   Selling/fish exceeding aggregated maximum Price/s. 20 and 26 of the Price Regulation Act No. 19 of 1973. H
   (2) PARTICULARS OF OFFENCE
   Mabula Mihambo charged on 3rd day of January 1984 at about 13.30 hours at Bunda Market, within the District of Bunda; Mara Region, did sell fishes (satu) at Shs. 180/= whereas the actual price is Shs. 90/= thus exceeding aggregated maximum price. I

  A The above charge, did arise from the price structures, determined, or fixed by the Bunda District Assistant Price Commissioner; under the empowering provisions of Section 7. 9 and 10 of the Regulation of Prices Act 1973, hereafter to be referred to as the Act. The accused having had the   B above charge read to him, he is recorded to have pleaded guilty, automatically thereby earning a conviction on his own plea of guilty. He was sentenced to a fine of Shs. 6,500/- or one year imprisonment.
The accused has not appealed. All the same, what did cause uneasiness is the wording, or form of   C the charge, and whether any offence under the provisions of sections 20 and 26 of the Act is disclosed. I shall first deal with the aspect of the wording of the charge, whose nagging influence is tangible. Both the statement of offence, and the particulars of offence do aver, that the accused did   D sell fish above the aggregated price, and therefore offended the charged sections. Having anxiously considered the charge I fail to imagine what an aggregate price in this case, meant to the accused person, who allegedly sold the commodity, or commodities concerned. Further, while it is not rhetoric, but a factual legal situation, that the Assistant Price Commissioner has power to   E determine price structures, in so doing, he has to fix maximum prices for sale of goods, or services (see section 8(1) of the Act), and not aggregate prices. For aggregate priced goods, may not necessarily have the same meaning, as statutorily assigned to, the price-controlled goods, in as   F much as, "maximum price", as ordinarily what is aggregated cannot be taken as the maximum. I would therefore, easily conclude that selling goods above aggregated price, is not an offence known to the Regulation of Prices Act 1973.
I was minded to think, that despite the problem of wording, or form above shown in the charge, the   G accused must have had substance clear, till I saw and read, the Bunda District Assistant Price Commissioner's Price List Notice Ref. No. BS/10/1/Vol. 14 of 21st June, 1983. In so far as the price is material for purposes in this case, the prices of "ngege" otherwise known as "satu", were fixed as follows:
H    (1) Ngege -
      (a) Mkubwa (Kigoma) Shs. 15.00
      (b) Kawaida Shs. 10.00
      (c) Ndogo Shs.  5.0
  I With due respect, these swahili terms "mkubwa", "kawaida" and "ndogo" are only expressive of relative sizes, and are not absolute

standard measures, for what is "mkubwa" or "ndogo" or "kawaida" to one, may qualify for  a  A different size, in the eyes and estimate of another, and in price terms qualify for a different price. For instance, if "ngege" mkubwa (Kigoma) is to sell at Shs. 15/= each, and as to who is determining mkubwa is anybody's guess, one wonders, how "ngege" "mkubwa sana" would sell, and where the  B "ngege" is "Mkubwa sana" in the view of the businessman, is the said businessman not entitled to determine his own price, in any case who has the competence to say it is not "mkubwa sana", but only, "mkubwa"? Is it the police, or the complainant, and who decides, when the accused say it is  C "mkubwa sana", and by what standard of measure. In the circumstances of this case, these are pertinent, though blind questions. But we had imperial weights and measures, and now we have a metric system, and why these standard measures were not applied beats my mind.
I am posing the above without oblivion, that the Assistant Price Commissioner acted under  D delegated powers, to determine price structures under the provisions already above shown. Further I am not under the influence of oblivion, to the fact that, the over-riding principle in the interpretation of legislation, made under power conferred by statute, is that it should be construed in the light of  E the enabling statue generally, and in particular so as to be consistent with the substantive provisions, and it is the duty of courts to give a fair and full effect to the same. But where the construction of such legislation results in ambiguities, or absurdities, or give rise to oppressive  F doubtful results, the benefit of doubt should always be given to the accused.
In this case, as selling above aggregate price is not an offence known to the Regulation of Prices Act 1973, and as otherwise, the measures are of doubtful precision, and left to be subjectively based,  G I am satisfied the conviction entered against the accused is very unsafe. The conviction is hereby quashed, and fine order set aside. The fine, or any amount thereof if paid, to be refunded.
Conviction quashed. H

A