Taxi drivers in Mbarara on Wednesday went on a sit down and parked their vehicles in front of the offices of the RDC, causing transport challenges in the western municipality.
The taxi operators were protesting the adamant refusal by the district leadership to implement a directive issued recently by President Yoweri Museveni for the reduction on the fees levied on them by municipal authorities.
The demonstration left passengers in the park stranded, especially those on long journeys on Mbarara-Ishaka, Mbarara-Rukungiri, Mbarara-Kabale and other main routes out of Mbarara.
In a letter dated July 22, 2017, President Museveni wrote to the minister of local government directing him to ensure that each taxi is not charged more than Shs 80,000 for each calendar month.
“I am writing through you, to all government agencies on the issue of over taxing our informal business groups; as far as taxis are concerned, it should again be one fee for an annual license to operate without any hindrance on the route,” the directive read in part.
Although the directive started working in the districts of Kabale, Kampala, Masaka and other parts of the country, authorities in Mbarara defied this directive on legal grounds.
They say that the entities contracted to collect fees from taxis are doing so under a 5 year contract which is still running and cannot be changed.
The Mbarara United Taxi Operators Union (MUTOU) in conjunction with the Mbarara United Taxi Operators and Drivers Association (MUTODA), charge Shs 150,000 monthly from each taxi and each driver has to pay Shs. 4000 according to drivers.
One of the drivers Amos Kataramire in a recent meeting with Mbarara Municipal leaders and tenderers, they were promised a response about their concerns but it is yet to come.
The taxi operators are also unhappy about the brutal manner in which they are treated during the collection of these fees.
“We went to the municipal council and security organs advised that torture and harassment should stop, but I myself, from that very meeting on Tuesday my vehicle was impounded simply because I raised my hand in council,” said one Yasin Sebahinda
In the heat of the demonstration, Police was called to guard the RDC’s office.
When contacted, the RDC Capt. Martha Asiimwe said she had no comment on the matter.
“My assumption is these matters should be handled by the town clerk and the mayor unless it’s a security issue.”
“If it’s a security matter there I jump in but my security and intelligence has not reported anything like torture and harassment in the Mbarara taxi park”