What you need to know:
- Police fired teargas to disperse the defiant taxi operators, momentarily disrupting businesses on some city streets like Edward Avenue and Victoria Road for close to 30 minutes.
Public transport in Masaka City got paralyzed for the better part of Wednesday morning as police and taxi operators were engaged in running battles after the latter parked their vehicles on the roadside, abandoning the gazetted park in the area.
On Monday, a section of taxi operators occupied the open space located on Masaka –Mutukula highway opposite Masaka Zonal Land office, claiming that many of their colleagues were already parking in the same area, rendering the gazetted park near the former Masaka Bus Terminal idle.
Led by the Masaka Taxi Operator’s chairperson, Mr Bashir Mawanda, the taxi operators claimed that a big number of passengers who have been using the taxi park no longer go there since its very far compared to the roadside open place.
“Passengers were not coming to the taxi park and we also decided to go to that open space along Mutukula Road,” he said.
However, the decision by the taxi operators to operate in an open space did not go well with the city security authorities in Masaka, who involved police to push them back to the park.
Police fired teargas to disperse the defiant taxi operators, momentarily disrupting businesses on some city streets like Edward Avenue and Victoria Road for close to 30 minutes.
Masaka Deputy Resident City Clerk, Mr Muhammad Kateregga Musaazi, said they had earlier in a crisis meeting agreed with taxi operators to use the gazette park, but some went against this, and parked their vehicles in an open space.
He said the open space is not fit for a taxi park since it lacks lavatory facilities.
“We could not allow them to operate at that site because it is not a gazetted taxi park. We only have one taxi park, which is at the former bus terminal, ” he said.
However, Mr Steven Lukyamuzi, the chairperson Kimaanya-Kabonera Municipality, where the open space is located, said the municipal council resolved that they set up their own taxi park to help generate revenue for the municipality.
He said their counterparts in Nyendo-Mukungwe Municipality have at least three taxi parks.
“We did not target taxi operators plying the Kampala route, ours is for those taking other routes like Masaka-Kyotera-Mutukula and Mbarara ,” he said
Taxi operators have since 2015 been operating in the ungazetted places claiming that the park is not easily accessible by passengers, which has on many occasions put them on a collision course with city authorities and security.
In 1953, Masaka received a bus terminal and 43 years later the town also got a modern taxi park.
However, both places are dilapidated. The gazetted taxi park is a deserted place apart from a few people who stay there and others earning a living by washing 30-seater mini-buses. Some of the shop buildings that were once brisk business places are now used to keep pigs, goats, sheep and native poultry.