A uthorities in Masaka Town have ordered vendors to vacate main streets to restore order in the municipality as it pushes for a city status.
The affected vendors operate on Elgin Street, Edward Avenue, Kampala Road and Mawogola, among other streets.
Ms Esther Namuwulya, the health inspector of Katwe–Butego Division, on Tuesday said they had given the vendors a two-week grace period to leave.
She said they would put the vendors in groups basing on their trades and give them jackets with numbers for easy identification in case of any problem.
“Masaka is soon becoming a city and we cannot leave our vendors to operate the way they want,” Ms Namuwulya said.
At least 200 vendors operate on the streets at night and about 500 during day.
Mr John Behangane, the town clerk, said the move is aimed at keeping the streets clean.
“Many vendors litter the town and yet they do not pay dues to enable us clean it,” he said.
Mr Behangane urged the affected vendors to comply or they would be forcefully evicted after expiry of the grace period.
However, some vendors have protested the move, saying the places where municipal authorities plan to relocate them are not conducive for their businesses.
“The places have a big concentration of bars and night clubs and people urinate in the corridors. You cannot sell snacks in such a dirty place,” Ms Agnes Namwanje, a vendor, said.
Ms Pauline Namubiru, another vendor, said the proposed corridors are always dark at night, adding that since they do not have lighting, it poses a security threat to them.
Mr Andrew Mwebe, a fruits dealer on Edward Avenue, wondered why they are being evicted from the streets yet they pay daily dues.
High rent costs
“Many youth have been operating from the streets because they cannot afford to pay exorbitant rent fees in shops. So, ordering them to leave in a very short period of time is like pushing them out of business which may force them to engage in criminal activities,” he said.
Despite a presidential directive banning daily levies on informal businesses, some revenue collectors in the town have continued to ask for them.
The vendors claim those who collect dues from them do not issue them with receipts but give them small chits to show that they have cleared. The vendors say they pay a daily fee of between Shs500 and Shs1,000 depending on one’s business.
In his July 22, 2017 letter to the Prime Minister and copied to Local Government and Finance ministers, Mr Museveni said informal business groups such as food vendors, gonja (roasted plantain) sellers, and maize sellers as well as taxi operators should only pay annual licences.
Municipalities set to become cities effective July 1, 2020, are Arua, Mbarara, Fort Portal, Jinja, Mbale and Gulu while Hoima and Mbale will become cities on July 2021.
About Masaka town
Masaka is one of the oldest urban units in Uganda. It became a township in 1953, a town council in 1958 and later elevated to a municipality in1968. Although local leaders are currently pushing government to elevate the town to a city, challenges such as poor garbage and waste management, lack of functional public toilets, lack of well-developed structural and physical plan and low local revenue collections may affect the municipality’s chances of becoming a city.