City traders count losses as tycoon closes 17 buildings

Thursday February 14 2019

 Stranded. Traders while away time at Zai Plaza after the premise were  locked yesterday.

Stranded. Traders while away time at Zai Plaza after the premise were locked yesterday. PHOTO BY KELVIN ATUHAIRE 

By DERRICK WANDERA & FRANKLIN DRAKU

The closure of about 17 city buildings by the landlord has left thousands of traders counting losses after they failed to access their businesses yesterday.

At least plazas Namaganda, Zai, Majestic and MM, all on Luwum Street, and Jumbo Plaza on Parliament Avenue were affected.
Others closed included; Mini-Price on Ben Kiwanuka Street and Energy Centre on Sikh Road, Jamboree, Qualicel buildings and Nabukera Plaza near New Taxi Park.

An estimated 7,000 people who directly or indirectly earn a living from the businesses in the closed buildings were left grappling with alternative ways of survival.

Mr Siraje Sekamate, who owns a photo studio on Zai Plaza, said he had lost about Shs3.5m because he was scheduled to make a photo coverage for a ceremony and had received a deposit. “I will have to pay a fine for the work I have failed to deliver yet I was given half the money upfront,” Mr Sekamate said.

No income
He is one of the many traders who woke up to the closure of their business premises and remained stranded whole day.
Ms Irene Ntalemwa sat in the middle of a road crestfallen and lost in thought on her next move. Her livelihood depended on her salon business in Namaganda Plaza.

“My family depends on me. If I don’t work, my children will not go to school and I will have no option,” said the teary single mother. She said she earns between Shs300,000 and Shs700,000 daily.

The distressed traders lost patience and started burning tyres and threatening to become violent. But police intervened and calmed the situation and ordered them back to their homes.

Mr Patrick Onyango, the Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesperson, said police would keep guard at the buildings to detect and avert any violence crime.

“We just went there to maintain law and order as those people settle their problems. There have been clashes already and we can’t predict what will happen next,” Mr Onyango.

Property wrangle
Mr Matovu, alias Young, a city businessman said he was forced to close down 17 buildings after being frustrated by authorities whom he accused of denying him justice in pursuit of his property which he claims were taken over unscrupulously.

He said he has used all possible means to recover his property, including visiting President Museveni, who he said promised to resolve the property wrangles within seven days, but has not received any relief.

“The people who are handling this case are playing hide and seek with me. I meet them whenever they call me, I have even gone ahead to meet them but once you reach their offices, they begin faking phone calls and pretend to be busy,” Mr Matovu said.
“I now want to sell off my remaining buildings because they will steal them too. All we are looking for is justice and nothing,” he added.

Mr Matovu also accused security forces of taking over the building at Qualicel and collecting rent from the tenants without his consent.
When our reporters visited the Qualicel buildings, there was presence of security personnel at the sites.

The city authorities have, however, kept a distance as the property wrangle intensifies. Kampala Capital City Authority officials say they are not part of the wrangles. They say the conflict is between individuals who must sort it out. Mr Peter Kauju, the KCCA spokesperson, said they are not concerned with the wrangles over property ownership, but plan approvals.

“The matter is not about plan approvals, which is our mandate. The issue is about ownership which is a matter between the individuals other than KCCA,” he said.

Mr Don Wanyama, the presidential spokesperson, said he was not privy to any meetings between the President and the wrangling property owners and therefore could not offer any explanation why the President did not settle their disputes.

Ms Flora Kiconco, the State House legal officer, also referred our reporters to the Attorney General, whom she said is the one handling the issues.

“Kindly get in touch with the Attorney General. I am not authorised to speak on behalf of government,” she said. Our repeated calls to both the Attorney General, Mr William Byaruhanga, and his deputy Mwesigwa Rukutana went unanswered.

background

Mr Matovu and Drake Lubega have been in property wrangles with Charles Muhangi who died last December for some time over the ownership of 0.518 hectare of land on which Qualicel Bus Terminal sits. They insist they legally own the land, which they have been developing for the last 13 years.

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