Kampala. The city authority is in the final stages of enacting a law to streamline taxi operations in Kampala.
The Taxi Ordinance 2013, was drafted under the first tenure of Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago but has never passed.
The ordinance, which is before Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) council for scrutiny, requires taxis to operate under a legal umbrella for easy management.
“I was frustrated by some technocrats at the Ministry of Works and Transport, who said government would prepare a comprehensive regulation for the entire transport sector. For now, there is no one who can authoritatively command the transport sector in the city because the whole business is unregulated,” Mr Lukwago said.
But the ordinance was brought for the first reading before council on Monday, and will come up for the second reading before being sent to the revenue committee to make a report in two weeks’ time. The report will then be submitted to council for approval during the third reading before the ordinance is passed and commences operation.
The first by-law to govern transport operations in Kampala was enacted in 1975 while the Boda boda Ordinance 2006, was enacted by the defunct Kampala City Council (KCC).
The two laws, Mr Lukwago says, now need amendments to suit the current city environment.
Currently, there is no regulation that guides the taxi and motor cycle taxi businesses in the city, often leading to bickering and loss of revenue.
But Section 8 of the KCCA Act, 2010, empowers the city authority to make ordinances in line with the Constitution or any other law passed by Parliament.
The draft Taxi Ordinance 2013, seeks to, among other things, streamline the apex body for taxi operators and their tenure, constitution, composition of the taxi executive, disciplinary matters, register of the taxi operators, and gazetting stages.
The ordinance also sets out to manage stage route identity, solid waste management, taxi fares, safety of luggage, safety of passengers, protection from liability and filing periodic reports.
Currently, the levies on taxis have no legal basis since they were imposed by the authority when it took over management of taxis in 2011.
Although the taxi operators have been paying a monthly road user fee of Shs120,000, President Museveni recently slashed it by half after the operators complained that the levy was heavy. But Mr Lukwago argues that the President’s directive is out of order since there is no taxi law in place which informed it.
Since the Presidents directive last year, Taxi operators have not been paying any revenue to KCCA, with the city authority losing up to Shs20b in arrears.
Statistics from KCCA show there are about 14,000 taxis in the city, but their management remains disorganised, with operators joining and exiting the business at will.
For instance, KCCA in 2015 banned all taxi stages in the city but the taxi operators have remained defiant and have continued to operate from the stages, hence contributing to the traffic jam in the city.
Taxi operators speak out
Mr Yasiin Ssematimba, the chairperson of the Kampala Operational Taxi Stages Association (Kotsa), says whereas the Taxi Ordinance, 2013, is good, it lacks the involvement of taxi operators who are key stakeholders in the city transport business.
“They are making an ordinance yet they have not even engaged us as taxi operators. There are many issues which we would want to be included in that regulation but now council is rushing the process without even hearing from us,” he says.
Mr Ssematimba challenged KCCA to first do ground work and reach out to taxi operators so that they can make a balanced ordinance.
Efforts by KCCA to streamline the transport business in the city has previously been frustrated by rival forces who back specific taxi factions.
Mr Mustapha Mayambala, the chairperson of the Uganda Transporters Development Agency (Utrada), says KCCA and the ministry of Transport should work together to avoid the confusion.
“We do not want to be in a situation where KCCA comes up with a law, which will not be recognised by the ministry of Works because this will affect us as taxi operators. We need a comprehensive law that will address all the issues,” he says.
But the Lord Mayor says whereas government was looking at making a comprehensive transport law, KCCA is mandated by the law to make own ordinances for the city.
Mr Lukwago says although he had directed the KCCA directorate of legal affairs to revise the Boda Boda Ordinance 2006, they have not done so, leaving the industry in confusion.
Just like the Taxi Ordinance, 2013, the boda boda ordinance was made by the defunct KCC. But the current council wants it revised to suit the current environment in Kampala.
Currently, the city authorities estimate the number of boda bodas at 100,000, but without remitting any revenue to KCCA.
But Mr Samuel Serunkuuma, the acting KCCA executive director, advises that the ordinances be halted since there is an Inter-ministerial committee developing guidelines to streamline the entire transport sector in the country.
“Apparently, there are taxis, boda boda, special hires and lorries, which need regulation and which government is currently handling. Why can’t we wait for a regulation that will cover transport players wholesomely instead of doing it in piecemeal?” he says.
Mr Serunkuuma’s view is backed by Mr Bruhan Byaruhanga, the chairperson of the legal committee, who says the ordinance could be overshadowed by the comprehensive guidelines being drafted by the inter-ministerial committee.
“We may approve this ordinance and it ends up being overpowered by the general transport regulation,” he says.
But Mr Lukwago says government’s pledge to issue regulation is not forthcoming hence the current gap could breed more chaos in the sector, especially in Kampala.
Currently, the transport business is dogged by clashes among rival organisations, often leaving the city with a poorly run transport system.
Appeal from transport stakeholders
Urban planners have asked government to formulate urban transport policies that will mitigate the current congestion in Kampala city and neighbouring municipalities. The stakeholders argue that the current inadequate public transport system and traffic jam in Kampala is caused by the absence of the relevant laws.
“For instance, majority motorists don’t know what they want on the roads and they don’t care whether they are in wrong or not. Secondly, operators of commercial vehicles don’t have the necessary requirements such as driving permits,” says Mr John Mark Mwanika, the coordinator of Amalgamated Transport and General Workers Union.