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Tuesday,October 20,2020 06:05 AM

Movement fights for Kampala

By Vision Reporter

Added 22nd June 2004 03:00 AM

The simmering conflict between KCC and State House over the taxation of boda boda cyclists in the city refuses to go away.

The simmering conflict between KCC and State House over the taxation of boda boda cyclists in the city refuses to go away.

By Joshua Kato
The simmering conflict between KCC and State House over the taxation of boda boda cyclists in the city refuses to go away.
As it turns out, the conflict could be a grand plan by the movement to wrestle the city out of the stranglehold of the opposition. Observers say that boda bodas are just the beginning of this struggle. more low income earners will soon be involved. Hawkers, wheelbarrow pushers, food vendors, shoe shiners and market vendors are some of the people targeted.
In both the 1996 and 2001 presidential and parliamentary elections, the movement government lost to the opposition.
In 1996, President Yoweri Museveni narrowly won in the city by 51% compared to his national average of 75%. In 2001 however, he only garnered 41% of the votes in the city, losing to Colonel Kiiza Besigye.
Statistics show that the opposition has got five of the nine parliament seats in the city. The City Mayor, John Ssebaana Kizito and all the five division chairpersons (LC 3s) are from the opposition. The movement has got no single top LC chairman in the city. This is a trend that the movement is seeking to change.
Among the reasons given by the people of Kampala for not voting the government is poverty.
For sometime, KCC has been taxing each cyclist operating within the city sh10,000 a month. The operators do not want to pay the charge, which they consider too high. In 12 months, the amount adds up to sh120,000. “That is broad day robbery,” charges Musa Kizito, a cyclist near Kampala Post Office.
After complaining to KCC, they wrote a letter to State House. On June 2, Fox Odoi, a legal advisor to the President wrote to Mayor Ssebaana Kizito, arguing that the Solicitor General had interpreted that taxes on boda bodas were illegal. He argued that they are not listed any-where in the Local Government Financial Act.
In effect, the directive stopped boda bodas from paying the levy countrywide. While the cyclists rejoiced, KCC mourned.
According to the fifth schedule, clause 13(g) and (h) of the 1997 Local Government Act empower districts to levy such tax. “The Act gives us powers to levy taxes on cyclists operating in our local areas,” says Takuba Kabuye deputy city mayor.
Kabuye says that sh10,000 is not much money, compared to the damage the cyclists do to the city. “We created parking zones for them. These people are also very dirty, so we clean the places where they work,” he says.
Kabuye sees no reason as to why boda boda cyclists should not pay taxes. On average, each biker earns about sh10,000 every day. This translates into sh300,000 every month. KCC say they are loosing sh60m in taxes.
The issue is, however, bigger than boda boda taxes. For a few years now, State house has helped develop the boda boda industry in Kampala and other major towns of the country, by encouraging them to get loans from several micro-finance institutions, most of them working under the Entandikwa scheme.
The schemes had been around for sometime. However, President’s office started seconding boda bodas after the 2001 elections. President Museveni used a boda boda to the nominations venue. He later invited hundreds of riders to the Conference Centre.
“Rural Micro-finance lent money to a private company called UMEA, which in turn passed it on to the cyclists,” says Moses Byaruhanga, political assistant to the President.
The youth are given money to buy the cycles, but are supposed to pay back the amount in soft interest free amounts. The bikes are now over 300 from the initial 100 purchased. The minimum one can pay is sh5,000 per day, while the official rate is sh7,000. Over 300 riders have already paid back the loans.
“As far as I am concerned, the scheme is good for fighting poverty and improving standards of living. This is a success story of the government policy of accessing credit to the poor,” he says.
Byaruhanga says that they cannot sit around, when Ugandans are overtaxed. “The cyclist pays sh10,000 to KCC per month. These motorbikes cost between sh1.5m and sh2m, a lock-up shop with capital of sh3m pays sh70,000 annually to the same KCC,” he says. He adds that KCC is either over assessing boda bodas or under assessing other businesses.
The cyclists under the loan scheme complained that KCC was harassing them because of their links to state house. “While handing out numbers for operations, we were the last people to receive these numbers and after complaining. They did not want us to operate from Kampala,” says a rider. However, Takuba Kabuye denies this, “We do not even know who has a bike under the loan scheme and who does not,” he says.
Bodas bodas are very strategic for political campaigns. Those involved in politics are escorted by boda bodas.
With over 300 bikes to start with, movement supporters have in the last few weeks organised at least two massive convoys in support of the President. One of these was at Sambwe in Nyimbwa, Luwero District during the Heroes Day celebrations and at the airport on June 17.
The chairman of the Uganda boda boda association (UBBCA) insists that the demonstrations in support of the president are not organised by state house, but by them as individuals. “ The resources we use are our own. We support him because he has done a lot for this country,” Abdu Masokoyi says.
Other boda boda riders interviewed said that on every occasion they demonstrate, they are given fuel worth sh20,000. But Kirunda Kivejinja, minister for the Presidency denies that such money comes from government. “They organise it themselves. They are simply happy for what the president has done,” he says.
However, not all the cyclists support Museveni. “I only went there for fun and for the money. I don’t support him,” says Steven Mukasa, who has been in all the demonstrations.
With the return of former Mayor Nasser Ssebagala, who has been said to rule the boda-boda constituency, just a month away, it is logical for the movement to pay extra attention to the cyclists.
Ssebagala has got overwhelming support among low income group in Kampala. This is perhaps what the movement is learning to do. Museveni has on several occasions used the boda boda. But he is yet to have lunch in St. Balikudembe market. According to State House sources, he will have a meal in the market soon.
The situation is easier because KCC which is largely considered Democratic Party(DP) has failed in a lot of its responsibilities. The low income earners feel that their small businesses including shoe shining and wheel barrow pushing are over-taxed. Casual labourers who carry heavy loads over their backs and heads also pay sh500 every day. Cooked food sellers are supposed to pay sh10,000 every-time their medical status is checked. This is on top of other monthly fees.
The President plans to tour the city in early July to “listen” to the cries of the people and address them accordingly.
Already, other low income earners are benefiting from the same micro-finance institutions. For example, Naava Nabagesera, a legal advisor to the President has been touring the city suburbs, encouraging women to start small groups, so that they benefit from the loan facilities. Women in the various markets have already accessed these soft loans.
While launching a wheel barrow pushers and casual workers organisation in Kalerwe two weeks ago, Mp Margaret Zziwa (Women-Kampala) encouraged the wheel barrow pushers to go for the micro-finance loan schemes, facilitated by the government.
Ends

Movement fights for Kampala

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