"Fiat Justitia Ruat Caelum"


 By Jaba Shadrack, UDSM – 2010.

Definition and Introduction

Local government refers collectively to administrative authorities over areas that are smaller than a state. The term is used to contrast with offices at nation-state level, which are referred to as the central government, national government, or (where appropriate) federal government. "Local government" only acts within powers delegated to it by legislation or directives of the higher level of government. (Wikipedia Encyclopedia).

Common names for local government entities include state, province, region, department, county, prefecture, district, city, township, town, borough, parish, municipality, shire and village.

For administrative purposes, Tanzania is divided into 26 regions; 21 on the mainland, 3 on Zanzibar, and 2 on Pemba. 99 districts have been created to further increase local authority. These districts are also now referred to as local government authorities. Currently there are 114 councils operating in 99 districts, 22 are urban and 92 are rural. The 22 urban units are classified further as city (Dar es Salaam, Tanga, Mbeya, Arusha and Mwanza), municipal (Dodoma, Iringa, Kilimanjaro, Morogoro, Shinyanga, Tabora), and town councils.

Historical Perspective of Local Government in Tanzania

The mainland Tanzania has a long history of functioning local government, starting with the Native Authorities Ordinance in 1926. There was a ten year break, as in 1972 the local government was abolished and replaced with a direct central government rule. The reintroduction of the local government occurred in the beginning of the 1980s (1982) when the rural councils and rural authorities were re-established. Local government Elections took place in 1983 and the establishment of functioning councils in 1984. In 1993 the one-party political system was abandoned and replaced with a multi-party system of government, the first multi-party elections taking place in 1995. Following the liberalisation of the political field, was a major public sector reform, which included a Local government Reform Programme (LGRP). The LGRP covered four areas: political decentralization, financial decentralization, administrative decentralization and changed central-local relations, with the mainland government having over-riding powers within the framework of the Constitution.

This process of local government reform is still on-going. It aims to promote democratic, accountable and autonomous local government authorities, with wide discretionary powers and a strong financial base implemented by 2011.

In the case of Zanzibar, the 1964 revolution not only abolished the Monarchy but also did away with the separation of the legislature, the executive and the judiciary, fusing all their functions into a revolutionary council. Since the promulgation of Zanzibar's first post-revolution constitution in 1979, Zanzibar has, however, passed various pieces of legislation on local government. At the moment, Zanzibar is developing a programme for local government with the assistance of the United Nations.


Local Government is a non-Union matter. It is nonetheless enshrined in the Union constitution as well as in the constitutions of the mainland and Zanzibar. In mainland Tanzania, the Constitution of the United Republic 1977, Articles 145 and 146 states that the National Assembly or the House of Representatives must provide for local government through legislation. Article 146 provides that one of the objectives of the local government is to enhance the democratic process within its area of jurisdiction and to apply the democracy for facilitating the expeditious and faster development of the people.

In relation to the local government in the mainland the main legislation are:

(a) The Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania of 1977

(b) Government (Urban Authorities) Act, 1982

(c) Local Government Finance Act, 1982

(d) Urban Authorities (Rating ) Act, 1983

(e) Regional Administration Act, 1997

(f) Local Government Laws (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act, 1999

(g) The Local Authorities Provident Fund Act (Act No. 6 of 2000)

(h) The Local Government Authorities (Decoration of Buildings) Act (Act No. 9 of 1968)

(i) The Regions and Districts (Establishment Procedure) Act (Act No. 12 of 1994)

Note: the Local Government Services Act 1982 has been repealed, recently.

In Zanzibar, the relevant part of the Constitution 1984 is Article 128. The main legislation regarding Local Government are:

(a) Zanzibar Municipal Council Act, 1995

(b) District and Town Councils Act, 1995

Note: The minister of state in the President's Office - Regional Administration and Local Governments (PO-RALG) is responsible for the administration of this legislation.

Aim of Local Government in Tanzania

Local Government Authorities exist for the purpose of consolidating and giving more power to the people to competently participate in the planning and implementation of development programmes within their respective areas and generally throughout the country. In modern nations, local governments usually have some of the same kind of powers as national governments do. For instance, they have some power to raise taxes, though these may be limited by central legislation.


All Local Government Authorities are mandated to play three main functions; Article 146 (2) (a)-(c) i.e.;

(i) Maintenance of law, order and good governance

(ii) Promotion of economic and social welfare of the people in their jurisdiction  

(iii) Ensuring effective and equitable delivery of qualitative and quantitative services to the people within their areas of jurisdiction

In addition to the basic functions, all local governments are charged with seven other functions and duties, as follows: [Refer, Party V of the Local Government (District) Authorities Act].

(a) Formulation, coordination and supervision of the implementation of all plans for economic, industrial and social development in their areas of jurisdiction.

(b) Monitoring and controlling the performance of duties and functions of the council and its staff.

(c) Ensuring the collection and proper utilization of the revenues of the council

(d) Making by-laws applicable throughout their areas of jurisdiction, and considering and improving by-laws made by village councils within their areas of jurisdiction.

(e) Ensuring, regulating and coordinating development plans, projects and programmes of villages and township authorities within their areas of jurisdiction.

(f) Regulating and monitoring the collection and utilization of revenue of village councils and township authorities.

(g) Subject to the laws in force, doing all such acts and things as may be done by a people's government.


Types of Local Government in Tanzania

Local Government Authorities are classified into two major categories;

(a) Urban authorities

They are responsible for the administration and development of urban areas ranging from townships, municipalities and Cities.

(b) Rural Authorities

They are commonly known as District Councils.

Note: the local government is divided into urban and rural authorities both on the mainland and Zanzibar. 

ON THE MAINLAND TANZANIA; urban authorities consist of city councils, municipal councils and town councils, whereas included in the rural authorities are the district councils with township council and village council authorities.

The district and urban councils have autonomy in their geographic area. District councils coordinate the activities of the township authorities and village councils, which are accountable to the district for all revenues received for day-to-day administration. The village and township councils have the responsibility for formulating plans for their areas.

In Zanzibar: urban authorities are made up of town councils and municipalities, while rural authorities comprise of district councils.

In both locations, below the local authorities there are a number of democratic bodies to debate local development needs. In the rural system, the vitongoji, the smallest unit of a village, is composed of an elected chairperson who appoints a secretary and three further members all of whom serve on an advisory committee. In the Urban areas streets (mitaa) i.e. is the smallest unit within the ward of an urban authority.

Unlike suburbs (vitongoji), the Mtaa Committees have a fully elected membership comprising of a chairperson, six members and an executive officer. (Ref. Sections 16-19 of Local Government (Urban) Authorities Act.


Local Government (District) Authorities Act of 1982 creates district based local government authorities in Tanzania. The Act provides, inter alia, the establishment, composition, functions and legislative powers of district, township councils and village authorities.

At the village level, the government structure is comprised of a village assembly consisting of all persons aged 18 and above. The corporate entity of a registered village is the village council comprising of a chairman or chairperson elected by the village assembly. There are also village committees covering such matters as planning, finance, economic affairs, social services, security, forest protection, water resources etc [Sections 146-147].

The village council's functions and roles include planning and coordinating activities, rendering assistance and advice to the villagers engaged in agriculture, forestry, horticultural, industrial or any other activity, and to encourage village residents to undertake and participate in communal enterprises. Propose by-laws must be adopted by the village assembly before being submitted to the District Council for approval [Section 169]. In addition, Section 29 of the Act provides for division of districts into wards. As an administrative subdivision between the village and the district, the ward reviews the proposed village council's projects in its jurisdiction and approves them for passage up the line to the District Development Committee.

Local Government (District) Authorities Act of 1982 as amended by Act No. 6 of 1999 establishes the Ward Development Council (hereinafter referred to as "WDC). The WDC is comprised of a councillor representing the ward in the District Development Council and chairpersons of all village councils within the ward. The WDC also includes member(s) of the district council, who ordinarily reside in the ward; and invitees from, for instance NGOs and other civic groups involved in the promotion of development in the ward. However, the invitees have no right to vote in the meetings. The WDC is responsible for developing general development plans for the ward. Further, the WDC must manage disasters and environmental related activities within its ward.

At the district level, there is a district council composed of members elected from each ward; members of parliament representing constituencies within the area of the district council; three members appointed by the minister responsible for the local government and one member representing the constituent village councils on a rotational basis. [Section 35(1), Act Number 7 of 1982].

District Councils; through the appropriate District Development Committee (hereinafter referred to as "the DDC") supervise the implementation of all plans for economic, commercial, industrial and social development in their respective areas. Also, the council approves by-laws made by the village councils and co-ordinates plans, projects and programmes for the villages within its area of jurisdiction. Apart from the DDC, there are other council committees. These committees are for finance, administration and planning; education, health and water; and economic affairs and environment.


Local Government (Urban Authorities) Act of 1982 [Act Number 8 of 1982] provides for the establishment, composition, functions and legislative powers of the urban based local government authorities (urban councils) in Tanzania. The urban council is comprised of the governing bodies for townships, municipalities and City Council (Commission).

Composition of a town council is provided for under section 24 of Act 8 of 1982. Township councils cannot have more than three members appointed by the local minister of government affairs. The council is comprised of members elected from the ward within the town and members of parliament representing constituents within the town [Section 24(1)]. The elected members then elect a chairman and vice-chairman for each town council.

A Municipal Council is made up of members elected from wards within the municipality; member of the parliament representing the constituencies within the municipality; not more than three (3) members appointed by the minister responsible for the local government affairs from among the residents of the municipality [Section 24(2)].

Section 8 and 25 (3) of Act No. 8 of 1982 provides for the establishment of City Councils. City councils are composed of one member elected form each wards within the city; the members of the Parliament representing constituencies within the area of the city council; and not more than three (3) members appointed from the residents of the city [section 24 (4)].

Each town council, municipal or city council has a Chairman, vice-chairman, Mayor and a Deputy Mayor respectively [Section 20]. The chairman and vice-chairman of a town council, and the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor of a municipal council and a city council, are elected by members of the councils from amongst the elected members of the urban authorities.

Section 47 of Act number 8 of 1982 provides for the establishment of the urban authorities committees who are in charge of finance and administration; economic affairs, health and education; and urban planning and environment. The city council shall establish such committees as may be determined by the minister in the order establishing it.

The objectives and functions of the urban authorities are provided for under PART V & VI of Act number 8 of 1982. These functions include: facilitating the maintenance of peace, order and good governance; and promoting the social welfare and economic well-being of the local community. Urban authorities are expected to further the social and economic development of their areas; take the necessary measures for the suppression of crimes and protection of public and private property; regulate and improve agriculture, trade, commerce and industry; further and enhance health, education, and the social, cultural and recreational life or of the people; and to eradicate poverty and distress.

Urban authorities may, subject to the consent of the proper officers pass applicable bylaws to their areas. [Sections 88-90 (1)] Urban authorities are required to give public notice to the local inhabitants of the intention to make the bylaws for comments [Section 90(1)]. After the expiration of the notice, the draft bylaws must be submitted to the Minister for approval and be gazetted.

It is important to note that the local governments are not replicated at the regional level. However, regional commissioners, secretaries and officials (who form Part of the regional administration), like the local governments, are responsible to the Minister for Local Government and Regional Administration. Normally, the regional authorities provide technical advice and support and exercise supervision to the District councils. Under section 12 of the Regional Administration Act, 1997 [Act No. 19/1997], it is provided that it shall be the duty of the Regional secretariat to facilitate the functions of the local government authorities within the region. However, the experience is that the regional administration can put heavy pressure on the local authorities and veto their development plans and programmes.


Local Government Elections across the United Republic of Tanzania, elections to the local government are held every five years, under the first-past-the-post system with universal adult suffrage at 18. 

On the mainland Tanzania, chairpersons and mayors are indirectly elected by the elected members of their respective authorities. Village councils are elected by the village assembly comprising all adults over the age of 18.

The urban and district councils are made up of the members elected from each ward; the MPs representing the constituency, within which the urban area is situated and women members, appointed by the National Electoral Commission from the proposals submitted by the political parties in proportion to the number of elected positions held on the council (including MPs). The number of women appointed to the council is not less than one-third of ward representatives and the MPs combined.

Included in the membership of the city councils are all the Mayors from the urban authorities within its jurisdiction, all MPs representing constituencies within its area, at least two women MPs resident in the city and elected from the women in parliament, and three councillors from each urban council, one of whom must be a woman.

Township authorities encompass the chairperson of the 'vitongoji'(suburbs) with its area, not more than three members appointed by the district council, and women appointed according to political proportionality to make up at least one-third of the authority.

Village councils have between 15 and 25 members. These consist of a chairperson elected by the village assembly, all chairpersons of the vitongoji within its area and other members elected by the village assembly. Women must account for 25 % of the council members. The term of office for all councillors is five years.

Offices and appointment

The head of the paid service is the District Executive Director in the district authorities and the Town/Municipal/City Director in the urban authorities. Typically, below the Director there are a number of Heads of Department. The Departments are many and may include the following: personnel and administration; planning and finance; engineering or works; education and culture; trade and economic affairs; urban planning; health and social welfare; co-operative, agriculture and livestock development; and community development.

Central government appoints the chief officers through the process of open bidding. City council directors are appointed by the president, while directors of town, municipal and district councils are appointed by the Minister. The Minister also appoints the heads of departments after a recruitment process.

The responsibility to recruit and dismiss senior officers is, at the moment, being devolved to local governments.

Decision Making Systems of Local Government: Residents' Participation

The most important, intended links between the local government and the residents of the given area are the vitongoji in the rural areas and the urban Mtaa committees, which are designed to mobilise citizen participation in local development.

Priorities for local service delivery and development projects are brought to the Mtaa committees for discussion before being forwarded to the Ward Development Committee (WDC). In the rural system proposals reach the WDC via the village council.     

In addition to the above, citizen participation in the local government decision-making is encouraged by the amendments to the Local Government (District Authorities) Act 1982, which provide for Councils to organise public hearings for people to question political leaders and staff. Councils have also been empowered to establish special kinds of service boards, open to all citizens in the area and providing an opportunity to influence service provision.

Participatory budget-making has also become a mean to increase resident participation. It is currently enabled by the bottom-up budgeting through the ward development committees and the democratic structures above them.


Local authorities can also raise revenue locally. The main sources of local income come from:

(a) Fees including taxi registration, bus stand/station, forestry products, valuation, scaffolding, inoculation and ambulance

(b) Licences including road, liquor

(c) Property taxes and rents

(d) Charges including for refuse collection, cess, hire of vehicles, markets

(e) Fines

(f) Others including sale of assets and recovery of public fund.


Disclaimer: This instruction manual is prepared for Certificate Students at UDSM (Main Campus) – School of Law, 2009/2010.

"Without prejudice"

©Jaba Shadrack, T.A, UDSM – School of law, 2010. jabashadrack@gmail.com

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  1. hi mr. Shadrck i have enjoyed a lot reading your article on local government. please kindly help me in different literature of local government in Tanzania shows that district council has three committees namely finance and administration committee, social services committee and economic education and health committee in contrast some other readings name standing committee, joint committee, special committees etc as committeees of district council, my question which are correct?

  2. shadracka please read the Local Government Laws (Miscellaneous Amendments), Act 2006 - (Act No. 13/06)you will find many things you have put here are outdated. call 0768560418 for more ellaborations.

  3. Dear shadrakc please read The Local Government Laws (Miscellaneous Amendments), Act 2006 - (Act No. 13/06)you will find many things you have put here are outdated. dial 0768590418 for more ellaborations.

  4. hi mr.Shadrack do we real have Ward Development council or Ward Development Committee?

  5. hi mr.Shadrack do we real have Ward Development council or Ward Development Committee?

  6. now how local government can instute a case . procedure

  7. I real enjoyed when read this page.its easy to understand but plz kindly show me the reason of local government authority

  8. thanks for the fantastic lesson, but what are the procedure for suing local gvt authority in our country

  9. K tc good but help me reasons abolished local government and reason of its restoration

  10. hi mr, in relation to topic above which law(s) govern petition for election in local local goivernments?

  11. i enjoy read this. what is the rationale for re-establishment of local gvt in 1985?

  12. how is the local goverment of tanzania after reforms from 2005 up to date.....and in which part to be reformed for more improvement of local goverment performances


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