Traders are protesting local governments and cities’ demand for the trading licence fees for 2020 and 2021 financial years despite the fact that they spent the better part of that period under lockdown.
Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) enforcement officers closed shops in the city until business owners paid trading licence fees for both years.
Kampala New Generation Traders Association chairperson John Kabanda said it was unfair for local government authorities to demand the fees when they were aware that traders did not work for some time due to the lockdown.
“We didn’t work half of the 2020 financial year. Even before the lock down in March last year, the government had put up restrictions that made it hard for our members to operate. Why close their shops because they didn’t pay for the licence for that financial year. They should waive the licence because we were not working,” Mr Kabanda said.
KCCA enforcement officers last week carried out operations in different parts of Kampala and sealed off shops over non-payment.
At Gwanda Mall in Kisenyi, Mr Michael Mugisha, a trader, said their shop was closed because the local authorities insisted that if they want to pay trading licence for this financial year, they must present a copy of the receipt to prove that they paid fees of the previous financial year.
In March, the government closed ‘non-essential businesses’ in the country at the height of the spread of coronavirus.
Some of the businesses such as entertainment centres and bars have since remained closed.
A wholesale shop in the central business district is charged Shs498,750 each financial year while a retail shop pays Shs236,250.
Even those businesses that were or still under lockdown have to pay the fee for the two financial years.
Mr Daniel NuweAbine, the spokesperson of KCCA, said they cannot stop collecting trading licence fees despite the lockdown.
“Trading licence is a statutory obligation. It isn’t for KCCA, but for the entire country. KCCA implements the trading licensing regime. Trading licence is permission to trade. It isn’t tapped on profits or income,” Mr NuweAbine said yesterday.
Trading licence is determined by the Ministry of Trade, which has not frozen collection even for the businesses that are still closed.
Mr NuweAbine said they have no powers to stop the licence or reduce it.
He said if they alter its enforcement, they will be summoned before the Public Accounts Committee in Parliament for failing to carry out statutory duties.