On June 13, a group of irate motorists stormed the Minister for Kampala Affairs, Ms Beti Kamya’s village in Lungujja in Kampala, baying for her blood following her directive banning three-wheel motorcycles commonly known as tuk-tuk from the transport business in the city.
The minister’s argument for the ban was that the tuk- tuks were not licensed to operate within the city.
Ms Kamya’s home was guarded by police for a couple of days as the threats by motorists heightened.
The motorists accused her of rushing to issue a ban on their business yet it’s their only way of survival.
“These tuk-tuks are operating illegally because they are only licensed to shuttle merchandise in industrial areas. Their existence in the transport business has bred competition among motorists which has caused clashes on several occasions,” the minister told journalists weeks before President Museveni rescinded her directive.
She also noted that banning tuk-tuks was one way of streamlining the transport business in the city.
The three-wheeled bike has a sitting capacity of three people with both seats of the driver and passengers covered with a tarpaulin to shield them from either sunshine or rain.
Mr Joseph Masaba, a tuk-tuk operator at Mini-price arcade, told Daily Monitor that by banning them, government is being unrealistic.
“You can’t ban these tricycles claiming that they cause congestion in the city yet we are organised people. How do you ban our operations and leave boda bodas who are always causing commotion in the city? The minister is just fighting us to satisfy her own interests, but we shall not give up,” he said.
President Museveni, while campaigning for former Kyadondo East Constituency NRM candidate Sitenda Ssebalu, wondered why tuk-tuk operators had been banned yet they were bringing ‘sanity’ to the city transport business.
“These tuk-tuk operators should be left to operate and let no one disturb them. We shall sort out their issues later,” he said. He even took a ride in one of the bikes.
However, the President’s backing of tuk-tuk bikes has since attracted criticism from both city administrators and other motorists who argue that he is sabotaging development of the transport system in the city.
Ms Kamya, who now feels let down by the President’s directive, says the President was just being misguided by opportunists who don’t want to see the city develop.
“As policy makers, we have already made a resolution to have these tuk- tuks eliminated from the city. We need a clean city and streamlining the transport system is one of the things that we must do,” she says.
Asked about the boda bodas and taxis whose management is in limbo, Ms Kamya says the Attorney General will soon provide guidelines to streamline the entire transport system in the city.
Mr Frank Mwesigwa, the Kampala Metropolitan police commander, who had been directed by Ms Kamya to enforce the directive on tuk-tuks, says he halted the enforcement because of the President’s directive.
“There was a presidential directive to let these motorists keep operating and of course his directive supersedes that of the minister. For now, they should be in the city working,” he says.
Ms Esther Namubiru, a businesswoman says: “They are comfortable because they accommodate only a few passengers. However, they would only work better on spacious roads, not like in this small city unless there is a plan to construct some lanes.”
Currently, the commercial transport system is ring-fenced with intrigue caused by lack of clear policies. As a result, there have been deaths and injuries caused by the continuous fights among motorists.
But Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago wonders why a three-seater bike would be eliminated from the city yet it would have actually been the kind of transport to be accepted to operate.
“This is being unrealistic and I think madam Kamya is just excited to be minister and that’s why she is coming up with irrelevant policies. Tuk-tuks allover the world are better means of transport in the city but when the minister bans them from Kampala, I really can’t tell whether she appreciates the fact that they don’t cause congestion. Why is she doing things without consulting city stakeholders?” Mr Lukwago recently remarked.
Although Mr Mustapha Mayambala, the Uganda Transporters Development Agency backs tuk-tuk bikes, his rival, Mr Yasin Ssematimba of Kampala Operational Stages Association says they must be eliminated
Tuk-tuks ply town routes and charge between Shs6,000 and Shs10,000.
Information gathered by this newspaper indicates that they are approximately 500 in the city transport business. But there are also others that only deal in shuttling merchandise within the city centre.
However, they don’t pay any tax, a claim some taxi operators are fronting. Whereas taxi operators pay a road user fee of Shs120,000 to Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) monthly, boda-bodas and tuk-tuk bikes don’t pay a single penny. This is partly the reason why some taxi operators want tuk-tuk operators to be kicked out.
KCCA had embarked on registering all boda-bodas with an aim of collecting revenue but the exercise was later abandoned.
Currently, the entire city transport system is in a sorry state as motorist, taxis and truck operate from anywhere. Pioneer buses park at the Constitutional Square.
KCCA’s physical planning master plan has since remained on paper and hence the poor traffic flow in the city centre.
Dr Stephen Kasiima, the director of Traffic and Road Safety, couldn’t be reached as he is reportedly out of the country.
According to available statistics from KCCA, there are 14,000 taxis operating in the city while the number of boda bodas is estimated at 300,000.