Thursday July 31 2014

KCCA needs the urban poor so they should not harass them

By Singh Katongole

When I heard that Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) Executive Director Jennifer Musisi had ordered the arrest of people buying from street vendors, I dismissed it as another of those proverbial cock and bull story. But Alas, she was serious and this drove me into some reflection.

While the KCCA chief has done commendable work in different aspects of life, management gurus always ask us to measure our actions because of the consequences.

It goes without saying that everyone needs an organised, clean capital city without the confusion that characterised the era of former mayors Nasser Ssebagala and Sebaana Kizito era, etc.
Surely, it would be ridiculous to think that Ms Musisi doesn’t mean well for the city but it is not always the story of the end justifying the means.

I am tempted to think the executive director has fallen into the trappings often chorused by people of the other political divide – that because she isn’t in an elective office, she can treat the people the way she wants. The relationship between Ms Musisi and the people of Kampala is with no doubt good and bad, they are dependent on one another and sometimes annoy each other. She will need them to grow revenue, and coercion will not help but sensitisation will.

Do we need an organised city, free of congestion and dust – yes we do but at what cost?
Good as it may, as leaders, we need to plan our actions to resonate with our society’s need and particularly our people.

We must acknowledge that in bottom billion societies like Uganda, small income businesses are what one would call a nursery bed for entrepreneurship. And you don’t just kill this sector; in many of the countries I have seen, there are designated places where people vend their stuff, needless to say that even model economies like UK have them.

And this is not like asking pigs to fly; the executive director can designate a day where we have our poor people go about their businesses. All around this country we have market days. Can Kampala people be given a street and people ply their business? KCCA can decide to charge a hire licence for the selected day. For the KCCA executive director would be like shooting two birds with one stone – raising revenue and rally people to support your programmes.

While the country continues to suffer from foreign pressure due to its stand on moral values like the Anti-gay Act, we must not offer change to disorient people. What Ms Musisi needs is full backing of the people since she is working to change the face of the city.

The issue of arresting a customer is rather a bridge too far for Ms Musisi. It has ramifications across realms. Imagine an innocent tourist who buys a handkerchief off a hawker on Ben Kiwanuka Street and is mugged by KCCA law enforcers! What image is being portrayed internationally? We don’t need to open new war fronts.

In my view, Ms Musisi has a lot on her table, including roads development and improving the transport sector in general, which I must say she has tried to fix. However, many buildings in the city have no plans; we still see plazas sprouting without ground parking, yet this is what is needed to decongest the city.

Finally, in peace building and democratising, what forms the fabrics of society’s standards aren’t the laws but the unwritten covenants that have pitied us as brothers and sisters.

Mr Katongole is the NRM deputy national treasurer and former Rubaga North MP.