The taxi drivers’ chairman at the Iganga stage, Silver Kasirye alias Pastor, said the leaders had been notified to give priority to pregnant women and mothers with children and had asked the few taxi drivers to accept the arrangement.
Margaret Birungi, an expectant mother, was excited when President Yoweri Museveni recently announced the lifting of the ban on public transport.With just a few days left to visit the labour ward, Birungi saw it as a chance to travel back to her home village in Bugoba, Luuka district, where she hoped to give birth under the care of her mother.
She was, however, one of the travellers who got stranded in the New Taxi Park in Kampala on Thursdayafter failing to find a taxi. She travelled from Kyengera in Wakiso district with her three-and-a-half-old daughter after her boyfriend, with whom they had been cohabiting in a rented room, abandoned them.Birungi says her boyfriend, Martin Wasswa, a chapatti maker at Kyengera trading centre, left home in April and has never returned.
"I have been living with my daughter with no help. Whenever I call him, he picks, but he does not say a word and I do not know where he lives," narrated Birungi, with tears rolling down her cheeks.She was working in a salon as a hairdresser, but her boss stopped her when she became heavy.She spent the night near the Police post in the park but still did not have enough money to buy food.
Birungi said one taxi came on Friday morning, but there were too many people waiting at the Iganga stage and because she is pregnant, she could not fight with stronger people. Fatuma Namango, another expectant woman, is a casual labourer who has been earning a living from digging in people's gardens in Luwero. She wanted to rush back home in Bugembe, Jinja district, leaving behind her husband who does the same work. She hopes to stay with her mother-in-law until the time of giving birth.
She managed to get a taxi from Luwero and arrived in the taxi park at 3:00 pm on Thursday but could not find a connecting taxi.
"I slept in the open and I did not have anything to cover myself. I have not eaten since yesterday (Thursday) and I am worried labour might set in any time before I reach home," she said, pointing at her lower abdomen where she said she was feeling pain.
Another passenger, 27-year-old Betty Nakisige, who is seven months pregnant, also spent a night in the park. She travelled from Wakiso and was headed for Kasambira village, over 20km from Kamuli town, but from 11:00 am when she arrived, she could not get a taxi.
Nakisige said she left her husband at Kasambira and came to nurse her mother who had undergone an operation at Mulago Hospital, but unfortunately,the lockdown was imposed before she could return "I am worried about my two children I left behind and because I still have a few months to give birth, I want to be close to them," she said.
The taxi drivers' chairman at the Iganga stage, Silver Kasirye alias Pastor, said the leaders had been notified to give priority to pregnant women and mothers with children and had asked the few taxi drivers to accept the arrangement.
"The situation is so bad here, people had been locked up in villages and other places, but when they heard that a ban on public transport waslifted, they all turned up. However, the Government is taking too long to register our vehicles, exposing passengers to coronavirus infection," he said.
Kasirye's concern was that there was no enforcement of social distancing in the park because of the large numbers of people.The Minister for Kampala, Betty Amongi, said on Friday the Government had agreed to temporarily put a waiver on public transporters plying upcountry routes who have not yet finalised registration to carry passengers for three days until Monday.
"The resident city commissioner and Kampala Capital City Authority team shall issue a waiver permit from the parks to any passenger service vehicle ready to transport the passengers," she said.
Amongi said the measure targets to ease the interruption on movement of buses and taxis that were previously travelling at night.
She clarified that the vehicles must have a PSV licence, third party insurance and valid driving permit for the driver.
Additional reporting by Geoffrey Kimono