Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Godfrey Mukalazi, a driver at Makerere stage says many of them are losing the hope of returning to the Kampala Old Taxi Park which was closed more than a year ago, to pave way for its renovation.
The park was closed by Kampala Capital City Authority-KCCA during the first COVID-19 lockdown in May 2020. The authorities had estimated that the work would last three months and that taxis’ would be allowed to return to the park in August, the same year. However, works were delayed prompting the Authority to set new deadlines which they still missed.
According to the plan, KCCA was supposed to work on the carpet or floor of the park, install 15 shelters measuring 1.5 meters where passengers can sit or stand to wait for taxis, construct two walkways, work on the drainage system, renovate office space, construct toilets and install security lights. Major works like the carpet layer and the drainage system have been completed.
But in October 2020, KCCA was sued by five companies for allegedly trespassing on their land and refusing to honour an agreement for their compensation. Consequently, the court granted a temporary injunction barring KCCA and the government from acting on the land.
Mukalazi says when KCCA started changing re-opening dates, rumours circulated that someone wants to take the park land. He says that they are now receiving conflicting information from KCCA officials some of whom insist that the park shall be reopened while others say they cannot act contrary to court orders.
Mukalazi says that they were thrown out on congested streets where they do not have sufficient operating space and no leadership to ensure some level of organisation. He adds on the streets, they compete for the same customers with taxi operators who initially had no space in the park.
KCCA allocated taxis to Burton street, Mini Price, Nakivubo and Cooper complex to operate during the time of the construction of the taxi park. Mukalazi adds that operators seem to have lost a decent place and left for an inconveniencing street life where they often collide with KCCA enforcement officers.
Herbert Wasswa, a guide at Kawempe stage says that operating in the parks was easier because of the level of organisation that saw each guide kept at their respective stage. He says that on the streets, they get into arguments with street guides from different stages as they scramble for passengers.
Another driver, Umar Kimbugwe, says that there is not enough space for multiple taxis to park on the streets and that having multiple taxis parked on the streets contributes to the traffic challenge in Kampala. He asked KCCA to find them a solution.
Vincent Iga from Nakulabye also says that there is very little space on the streets compared to the number of taxis operating there which makes it hard for them to operate.
Rashid Sekindi, the Chairman of Uganda Taxi Operators Federation, a union of taxi associations says that they have a scheduled meeting with KCCA next week where issues of the park shall be discussed. He says they are waiting for KCCA’s guidelines adding that they are not concerned about the court case and the orders since taxi operators are not part of the deal.
But the KCCA Deputy Spokesperson Robert Kalumba said without divulging details, that taxis would soon return to the park. Once renovations are completed, the park will accommodate 344 taxis from the previous number estimated at 400 taxis.