Paying the price of sanity

Kampala City

“I will never forgive the KCCA law enforcement team for taking my merchandise and extorting money from my sister before my release,” Wasswa Luzze Ibra castigates KCCA recent operation to restore sanity in the city.

It all started in September last year when Kampala Capital City Authority started evicting hawkers and street vendors under what the authority called restoration of Trade Order.

Luzze, 23 a shoe shiner along Kimathi Avenue has not recovered since December 22nd 2011 when the KCCA team pounced on him confiscating his shoe cleaning instruments (stools, shoe polish, sandals, brushes,) before taking  him to Ssezibwa Road.

Luzze, who survived going to Luzira prison narrowly, has decided to return to the village as soon as he raises the fare to transport him with his family.

He attempted to run with some shoes and brushes towards Kampala Casino parking to hide them but was intercepted and loaded onto a pickup with the other goods taken from other streets and driven to Sezibwa Road.

“I was handcuffed then taken to Sezzibwa Road in the house where former Mayor Nasser Ssebagala had his offices. I was dumped there until 4:30pm when my sister came to rescue me with shs50,000,” Luzze a father of two recalls.

According to Luzze, the driver of the KCCA pickup, an elderly man in whose custody he was left, pestered him to produce Shs150,000 for his release. Failure to raise that much, Luzze would end up in prison.  At that time he could not raise that much. However, negotiations with the old man dropped the amount to Shs50,000 which his sister brought.

Luzze together with some other 20 victims have a similar story to tell, although KCCA insists they were operating illegally following the expiry of their trade licenses.

After the street traders/vendors removal, kiosk removal followed; right now the operation is against parking on pavements before lastly turning to road side truck loading/offloading. This exercise has brought some positive changes to Kampala City.

Prior to implementing the Trade Order, a KCCA team conducted a survey in the different markets in the five divisions of Kampala District and identified 8,500 places that could accommodate some of these vendors.

After this survey, KCCA started issuing notices to the vendors in June last year giving them three months to vacate. “Most of these people had no designated areas as they operated along the streets.  One would today operate from here and the following day goes to a different place, we had to use the media to inform them before we moved to enforce,” KCCA spokesperson Peter Kaujju explained.

During the exercise a number of the vendors and kiosks owners cooperated while some did not comply.  According to information from KCCA, about 50% complied and took up the identified spaces in the markets although they were quite slow especially in the outskirts, advancing the reason of the their major client base is in the city centre.

Places like Kamwokya and Nakawa attracted less people as they were adamant to take them on the grounds that they assumed KCCA would relent and tell them to continue with the street vending in the city centre.

The second component of the KCCA exercise took the format of removing of all illegal kiosks. “They were so unsightly; many were not approved and were operating without permits. However, there were those that had permits.”

On 31st December 2011 all permits that had been issued to kiosk operators expired. KCCA then asked all kiosk operators to remove them, pending new guidelines on managing kiosks in the city.

According to KCCA, new guidelines will focus on issues like: the material that one can use to build a kiosk, specifications in terms of size and location. “There are guidelines being  prepared by the physical planning department that are pending approval by the authority after which the authority shall resume issuing permits for operating kiosks in the city. As I speak now, their operation became obsolete,” Kaujju emphasized.

“Some people did remove them apart from a few that resisted, forcing us to remove them. By this notice, all kiosks had to be removed. “As we speak today, there is no permit authorizing operation of any kiosk in the city until those guidelines are out.”

Some of the kiosks removed were empty and those that had property were taken as exhibits because it was illegal to operate and trade in kiosks. Kaujju says some of the property has been claimed back by the owners on the  condition that they can prove genuine ownership.

Since the exercise began, there are some people that do not want to comply. There has been prosecution, fines before they claim their property while others have been committed to community service and others sent to Luzira.

After the street vendor eviction, KCCA has embarked on maintenance exercise on the pavements, walkways and creating some relief to street users.

Under Trade Order, KCCA also issued notices to truck drivers following the inconvenience of loading/offloading items along streets in the city centre.  They were also notified in September last year, although the enforcement has not kicked off due to operational challenges. However KCCA insists that they are due to implement it.

Most affected areas are Kikuubo trading area and Arua Park.  “There are complaints from the business community operating there, of dropped sales due to parked tracks in front of some premises.  We are going to enforce it soon” Kaujju asserted.

KCCA too warned shop owners against displaying merchandise on verandahs and pavements to provide easy movement to the public. “They were notified against displaying merchandise like mattresses, furniture, electronics among other items on verandahs and walkways. This makes it difficult for the public to access their shops.”

The fourth component of the KCCA trade order restoration is the notice to end parking on street pavements. “You will be surprised that when you move from here, you will find vehicles parked on pavements including government vehicles. The most affected area are the pavements on the streets around Parliament. The accounting officer has wrote a letter to the Clerk to Parliament advising that the MPs stop parking on pavements and we have started enforcing this,” Kaijju added.

Over 15 vehicles have been towed from pavements around Parliament and the owners have paid towing fees and a fine of Shs40.000 per vehicle.

KCCA is planning to extend these operations to the city outskirts starting with Wandegeya and Makerere. Patrick Katungi, who headed the Wandegeya kiosk and container removal operation said the traders who were operating illegally were given ample notice to vacate the area, adding that the demolition exercise was previously conducted in the central division and will now spread to the outskirts to ensure a more orderly city.

By Savio Kyambadde