Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Some traders hoping to cash in on the huge numbers of pilgrims at Namugongo were left disappointed after a slow end of the day.
What started as a promising day quickly changed with the change in weather, at around lunchtime – almost the time pilgrims were about to leave Church compound.
“When you see rain, know that it is not well,” said Moses Jemba, who was selling clothes. “Ugandans have no money. They are just looking at us.” Other traders told us they wish they had stayed in town. “If I had stayed in town, I would have sold at least a half of these sandals. I put in transport to come here and people are not buying,” said a one Wycliffe Nzinza.
The trick in selling more lies in having the cheapest merchandise. Traders who called people for clothes costing between 1,000 and 4,000 Shillings attracted enviable crowds. But for most traders, the inconvenience came with the rain as they had to cover or roll off the merchandise from the street.
Although restaurants had a kill, the cost of food drastically went up. At Assisi Restaurant, run by nuns adjacent the Catholic shrine, a plate of food went up by between 2,000 to 3,000 Shillings because of an overwhelming number of people but also, according to owners, because they bought food expensively.
People thronged the restaurant because it had shade and tents in the gardens that shielded them from the afternoon drizzles. Some dinners went there because of the faith attachment.
A plate of posho and matooke served with beef stew jumped from 5,000 to 8,000 shillings, beans went up from 3,000 to 5,000 Shillings, although the price of drinks, like soda and beer was maintained.
In the temporary restaurants, food cost between 3000 and 5,000 Shillings. People ate, one restaurateur said, but also many walked away after service because of the rain.
For the sugar cane sellers, this was a day to forget. The chilly weather meant they hardly made meaningful sales. They were seen sitting near heaps of cane silently as pilgrims buzzed past them.
At the entertainment end, the business boomed. Particularly popular was a game in sort of roller coaster where people climbed and would swing in the air for about three minutes at a cost of 1,000 Shillings each. Hundreds of school children – and some adults paid to enjoy. “It has not been bad,” one of the gentlemen running boasted.
Also happy were the mobile money operators, whose kiosks were a beehive of activity as people rushed to withdraw money for transport and quick purchases.