Mutukula, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Mutukula border customs in Kyotera district has lost about Shillings 150 million in revenue due to the nationwide lockdown because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Vincent Seruma, the Assistant Commissioner Public & Corporate Affairs at Uganda Revenue Authority-URA, says they collect at least Shillings 50M from passenger buses from Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe each month.
He explains that their monthly collection at URA-Mutukula is Shillings 2 billion and buses contribute 2.5%. In March, President Yoweri Museveni directed the closure of all border points to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease-Covid-19. Only cargo trucks were allowed to cross the border.
As a result, several buses plying Tanzania-Kampala, Tanzania-Lusaka and Zambia-Harare (Zimbabwe) are packed at the customs yard pending the lifting of the suspension. Seruma argues that although some traders outside Uganda wish to order for goods online, the passenger buses which they often use are no longer operational.
He says currently, the traffic at Mutukula is mainly for clearing agents and cargo trucks drivers adding that on average they get 50 trucks every day. If the Covid-19 catastrophe continues, Seruma explains that some drivers may fear to travel because of the strict regulations which may further affect revenue collection.
According to Peter Gikwiyakare, the URA Customs Supervisor-Mutukula, they get traders from Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe who buy commodities in Kampala. Much as there have been several complaints from traders who regularly buy commodities from Uganda, Gikwiyakare says they will stick to the lockdown directive.
The queues at the immigration and customs offices have since reduced because of the lockdown. Normally, an average of 150 people cross Mutukula border each day. Gikwiyakare notes that they are maintaining high sanitation levels at customs to avoid regrettable Covid incidents.
Although the customs premises have three gates, Gikwiyakare noted that one has been closed permanently to restrict access and for strict monitoring of the premises. According to him, truck drivers who fail to adhere to the Health Ministry guidelines such as wearing masks, washing hands, and screening are denied entry to avoid transmission of Covid-19.
There is high presence of health personnel, uniformed police and plain clothed security personnel at the border. Currently, few markets and local restaurants at the border are open due to few customers. Their regular customers used to be travelers and traders from Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Tanzania’s borders have remained open and businesses such as retail and wholesale shops, markets, public transportation and trade of goods and services are operating normally. This has forced some Ugandan traders to sneak into Tanzania with their merchandise prompting Uganda to mount roadblocks to limit the numbers of Ugandans crossing into Tanzania.