Masaka vendors reoccupy market

Vendors occupy the new Masaka Central Market, which was opened on August 7, 2023 following three years of construction. PHOTO | ANTONIO KALYANGO

What you need to know:

The market leaders say 500 of the 700 stalls have so far been occupied

Vendors in Masaka City, who were relocated in 2018 to pave a way for construction of Masaka Central Market, have finally reoccupied their new market.

In 2018, the government contracted a consortium of Multiplex Limited and Alshams Construction Company Limited to construct a modern market at the city’s central business area, a project which was to be handed over in February 2020, but was delayed by several factors. 

Following an intense exercise of allocating stalls by the allocation committee, the Daily Monitor visited the market on Tuesday and found vendors arranging their merchandise on stalls.

Ms Beatrice Nakayiza, the outgoing chairperson of Masaka Central Market Vendors Association, said they are living a dream they never thought would come true.

“I thank the government for fulfilling its promise. Some vendors thought we would never return to work from such a magnificent structure but here we are,” Ms Nakayiza said.

The contractor handed over the project to the city leadership in January after a series of contract extensions. The contractor also waited for the minister of Local Government, Mr Raphael Magyezi, to conduct final inspections and to offer guidance on a contentious allocation exercise.

Mr Magyezi visited the new market on July 15 and instituted a stalls and lockups allocation committee, which he gave a two-week ultimatum until Monday this week. 

Mr Frank Tumwebaze, a trader and chairperson of Market Cell, applauded the government for improving their working environment.

“We have been working from a dusty and filthy environment. During the rainy season, it has been worse but we are now in a sheltered place with modern facilities. Masaka City Council officials should emphasise restoring trade order by removing   all vendors off the streets so that they also come here,” he said.

Mr Richard Mugisha, the Masaka City deputy clerk, who chaired the allocation committee, said at least 80 percent of vendors have got stalls and that the remaining empty stalls will be occupied by those currently operating on streets.

“It has been a transparent process based on lists approved by Masaka City Council and the Ministry of Local Government. Of the 700 stalls, 500 have been occupied. By the end of this week, the exercise will be completed,” he said.

Last month, Mr Magyezi ordered politicians and civil servants in Masaka City to vacate stalls and lockups they allocated themselves in the market.

The minister said with the new Markets Act, 2023, no outsiders are allowed to own stalls meant for vendors.

According to Section 21(11) of the Act, “a person who is in public service of a local authority shall not be allocated a work space, shop, pitch or stall in a public market within the jurisdiction of that local authority”.

However, this Section 21 (12) doesn’t apply to a person who was a vendor in a public market in the area before assuming an office in public service of the same local authority.