Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Government has finally opened the newly renovated Old Taxi Park in Kampala, close to two years since it was closed for refurbishment.
Uganda’s biggest taxi park, used by over 200,000 passengers daily, was closed for renovation shortly after the March 2020 national wide lockdown to control the spread of COVID-19.
When renovations started in May 2020, Kampala City Council Authority (KCCA) through its contractors Sterling Construction Company Limited and Kiru Technical Services planned to complete the works in three months’ time.
However due to heavy rains and the impact of COVID 19 lockdown, substantial works couldn’t be completed until late 2020.
The scope of work included construction of the carpet layer, the drainage system, toilet facility, passenger shades, clinic and renovation of park offices. However, by close of 2020, KCCA was yet to complete anything. But as works continued, another delay was caused as five companies sued KCCA for encroaching on their land.
The companies, Lukyamuzi Investments Ltd claimed 0.058 hectares, DKS Uganda Ltd (0.135 hectares), Key and Ham Investments Ltd (0.058 hectares), Abamwe Transporters Ltd (0.067 hectares), and Kabale Distributors Ltd 0.55 hectares of the land hosting the park.
They accused KCCA of encroaching on their land while constructing. The companies, which claimed to have acquired the land from the de-facto Kampala City Council-KCC, said that they had entered an understanding with KCCA to give them their land after construction of the carpet layer but that the authority had not honored that understanding.
The old taxi park occupies 0.949 hectares of land, meaning the majority of the land belongs to private developers.
In October 2021, KCCA planned to open the park but the companies secured an interim injunction on October 19th, 2021, just a day before the date set by the Authority to open the facility.
Later in December 2020, the companies also acquired a temporary injunction barring KCCA, the government, and their agents from working on the land until the high court determines their main suit.
Early this week, the Minister for Works and Transport. Gen Katumba Wamala revealed that they had agreed with KCCA to hand over the park as negotiations between the five companies and KCCA for compensation are ongoing. The results of the negotiations are yet to be known but the park is up and running.
Taxi operators flocked the park on Saturday morning to resume operations in jubilation.
Huzair Kabanda, a taxi driver on the Namuwongo stage is happy that the park has been opened and they are now back. He narrates the struggles operating on the streets where they often collided with KCCA officials who impounded their vehicles for wrong parking.
When the park was closed, some taxis were moved to nearby taxi parks while KCCA allowed other to operate along Burton Street and Nakivubo Mews. But the space left for the taxis to operate could not accommodate the over 400 taxis from the old taxi park forcing others to extend to other streets.
Kabanda says that when they parked on streets other than those allocated to them, their taxis were impounded and they had to part with at least Shillings 50,000 to rescue their vehicles.
Ayubu Kirinya, a driver at Namugongo stage is also happy, saying that they can now operate in an organized environment in a neat park with a better drainage system.
The re-opening of the park has also brought joy to passengers, who say boarding from the streets exposed them to thieves who often snatched their bags in the night. Stella Nafula, a passenger, who usually commutes to Mukono, says that since the park was closed, she has been boarding from Burton street.
She, however, says that taxis there have not been well organized as more than one taxi would load at a time making it hard for a taxi to get full quickly. She also says that she lost her bag to thieves who masqueraded as touts operating on Burton streets.
Jussy Kiyina, a passenger who boarded from Nakivubo Mews when the park was closed, says the park is easily accessible and more secure than Nakivubo Mews.
There are works that are yet to be completed. These include construction of passenger shades, toilets, a clinic, and renovation of KCCA park office block.