Traders’ strike paralyses transport sector in city

Passengers board a taxi in the Old Taxi Park in Kampala on April 17, 2024. PHOTO/MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZI

What you need to know:

  • Today marks the second day of the traders’ protest against enforcing the Electronic Fiscal Receipting and Invoicing Solution (Efris) by the national tax collector, Uganda Revenue Authority (URA).

A strike by Kampala traders against an alleged unfair taxation policy has paralysed the transport sector and left several of them counting losses.

As the strike entered its second day on April 17, taxi and bus drivers and boda boda operators downtown were seen stranded, without passengers and deliveries, since several of their clients had stayed home.

Others parked in front of the arcades and were seen in groups engaging in arguments. Most of the taxis stood empty, devoid of passengers and cargo.

By daybreak on April 17, both old and new taxis lined the streets, with a noticeable relaxation in the deployment of uniformed officers by the police.

Mr Abbis Mutebi, a secretary at the Old Taxi Park, said on a normal day, the old taxi park hosts more than 200,000 passengers.

“Taxis business is currently a risky one as most drivers here depend on traders and cargo. The strike has paralyzed everything. On a normal day, the Old Taxi Park receives about 200,000 people who come to trade and conduct other business,” Mr Mutebi said.

He added, “There is no traffic congestion in the city because there is no business downtown. Now, most of the drivers have also decided to park because they are not earning from it, and most of our drivers have loans.”

Mr Mutebi also appealed to the government to take the traders’ concerns seriously, noting that traders support about six to ten people in the transport sector.

“The strike is going to force many taxi operators out of business if the government does not listen to their concerns. One trader on average can support around five people in this taxi system. There is a tout, conductor, driver, KCCA, us who operate in the taxi, and URA, which also receives part of their money,” he said.

On Tuesday, city traders, under various umbrella bodies led by the Kampala City Traders Association (Kacita), organized a peaceful nationwide closure of shops.

Today marks the second day of the traders’ protest against enforcing the Electronic Fiscal Receipting and Invoicing Solution (Efris) by the national tax collector, Uganda Revenue Authority (URA).

Mr Richard Magoba, a boda boda rider at Mini Price, said he almost slept hungry yesterday as there were no passengers or cargo to different destinations.

“When they announced the countrywide strike, I thought they were joking, but yesterday I went to bed with only shs22, 000, whereas on a good day, I make shs90, 000. It’s the money I have used for fuel today,” Mr. Magoba said.

Boda riders stuck
Adding on “Most of the boda boda in Kampala operate when shops are open, and we mainly deliver cargo. Without cargo, there’s no money. Financially, I am feeling the impact of the EFRIS strike, and my prayer is that the government listens, or we shall also join because we know equally that the government doesn’t need us in the city.”

In an interview with this publication, Mr. Samson Lubega, a taxi driver at New Taxi, said that Kiseka, which has also closed shops, is the only place where he can find spare parts for the taxi.

“We are equally affected, and after this trip, I am going to park because I am just wasting fuel. I will wait until the traders decide to open shops on Friday,” Mr Lubega said.

According to the taxi operator, trips from Mukono to Kampala usually range from five to seven per day, depending on the day.

“I make around shs80, 000 after deducting for the boss. But with the current strike in place, I have spent about three hours in the park looking for customers, whereas it used to take 15 minutes to fill the taxi,” he said.

Mr. Lubega, however, said that the leaders of the taxis are compromised because they don’t know the real owners of the taxi parks.

“We fear to join the traders because we don’t know if the old taxi park is indeed our park. Here, we are compromised, but we would like to join our brothers and sisters.”

In the statement released by the Ministry of Finance, Mr. Matia Kasaija noted that his ministry should, within the next two weeks, study and consult on the proposal to increase the current VAT threshold and the VAT rates and communicate the Ministry’s position on the matter, taking into account the findings from the study and relevant consultations.

Mr Kasaija, however, gave URA the go-ahead to continue implementing the EFRIS but put emphasis on sensitization and handholding of taxpayers to appreciate the EFRIS and also ensuring that it is demystified among all taxpayers.

“With immediate effect establish an office in Kikuubo that is solely dedicated to providing EFRIS support services to all traders and other taxpayers,” he said.

The ministry also asked the Commissioner General URA to submit the list of traders currently having outstanding EFRIS penalties, for his consideration for possible waiver.

It is from this background that KACITA has asked the city traders to continue with the closure of shops until the President meets the traders in large numbers.