KAMPALA —Taxi operators and vendors at Usafi Market have mounted unprecedented pressure on city authorities —asking them to urgently direct all taxis that ply the Entebbe route to load from the Usafi taxi park where they are gazzated.
During a heated exchange, vendors, taxi operators and agents said that most of the customers who used to support their businesses were the passengers who frequented the Usafi Taxi park which is no longer functioning—hence stalling their businesses in “already a business environment.”
They say that KCCA should make sure that all taxis meant to operate from Usafi do so, such that the number of passengers coming to the park increases and hence the possibility of increasing the number of people who could also use Usafi market.
They specifically pointed to Entebbe stage, which they say should be solely at Usafi market to boost it and attract more passengers hence buyers in the market.
KCCA opened Usafi market in 2013 to host street vendors and hawkers on one side and a taxi park with taxis plying mainly the Entebbe route on the other side.
The thinking was that the market and the park would complement each other.
The market vendors and the taxi operators have for long complained about the lack of customers, saying potential clients resorted to boarding from the Old or New taxi parks to beat the distance from the city center to Usafi market.
Despite efforts by KCCA, several taxis meant to use Usafi park have continued to operate on the streets around Nasser road, Clocktower, and Entebbe road further crippling business in Usafi where complaint taxi operators stage.
To remedy the situation, the operators asked KCCA to break Usafi market and move taxis to that location, arguing that the park is hidden and perhaps that’s why passengers don’t go there.
Information also started circulating among Usafi market vendors that indeed taxi operators were already working with KCCA to demolish the market. This prompted a group of vendors to storm KCCA to petition the Executive Director.
They say that they heard about the move to evict them and reported the matter to the Deputy Resident City Commissioner for Kampala Central who promised to respond in a week’s time in vain.
They also petitioned President Museveni who directed KCCA to work with State House and return harmony in the market.
On Thursday, KCCA Deputy Executive Director, David Luyimbazi who was in a company of Presidential Secretary on Informal Sector Hillary Musoke visited the market and held a meeting with taxi operators and vendors to stop the bickering.
He said that the authority shall enforce order among taxis meant to operate from Usafi park such that they don’t stage on streets.
“Rumors we are [KCCA officials] being behind the mess in the taxi business for personal gains are not true because we are servants of the people who earn salaries. To prove this, I can assure you that within one month, all the taxis on Entebbe Road would have returned in this Usafi park,” he said.
Luyimbazi assured vendors that KCCA had no plans of moving the market from its current location.
On his part, Hilary Musoke said he will forward their views to President Museveni and concerned authorities for intervention.
“In the process of helping the people, I stepped on many people’s feet which created me more enemies than before and therefore, nobody should sabotage your businesses with a view that he is working for me or State House,” Kisanja said.
“Avoid being misled by the politicians who are always focusing on gaining mileage but killing people’s business at the same time. We are focusing on fighting the economic war not political war,” he added.
Usafi market and park sit on 6.18 acres of land which the government bought in 2014 from Safinet (U) Ltd, a company owned by businessman Umar Ssekamatte at 39.4 billion shillings before the cost increased to 43 billion after KCCA failed to make payment on time and was fined 3.6 billion shillings.