By David Lumu
Technocrats from the transport ministry and Makerere University are engaging bodaboda riders on the efficacy of the anti-COVID-19 passenger shield, which many riders have mounted on their bikes to enable them resume public transport services.
According to the works ministry spokesperson, Suzan Kataike, the report on safety of the passenger shield will be released on Wednesday.
If the report gives a nod to the passenger shield innovation, bodaboda operators anticipate that they will resume the transportation of people.
In his recent address to the nation, President Yoweri Museveni welcomed the innovation of the passenger shield that is mounted on the motorbike to prevent contact between the rider and passenger, but added that it needed to be studied, in regard to the safety of the passenger in case of an accident.
Since March 18, the President has issued a raft of measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The Government has also eased some measures, including the reopening of public transport, provided they operate at half-capacity. Museveni, however, restricted bodaboda riders to only carrying cargo and food, a move that the riders
say has pushed them out of business.
In anticipation that they would be allowed to resume transporting passengers, bodaboda riders created a transparent shield.
However, commenting about the safety of the bodabodas in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Museveni said: "Bodabodas, if allowed to transport people at this stage of the pandemic, may lead to further spread, with
complexity in tracking cases and contacts, given a large number of Government is in the process of reforming
the bodaboda industry people they transport."
Compared to commuter taxis, the President added, bodabodas reach deep into communities and that there are no safeguards to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) says the bodaboda business employs about 120,000 people within the central business district.
The road safety report of 2018 also indicates that there are over 405,124 bodabodas operating in Kampala, a city whose day population is about five million and two million by night.
To regulate the transport means of the Kampala population, the Minister for Kampala, Betty Amongi, recently
launched the registration of taxis, buses and bodabodas.
"The Government is in the process of reforming the bodaboda industry. This entails gazetting of stages and
creation of a bodaboda-free zone in the central business district. Until then, bodabodas continue to carry
luggage and maintain the curfew time as per the presidential directive," Amongi said.
She added: "Bodabodas play a critical role in transporting a good number of people in the city, but they need to be regulated to enhance the safety of the public. The Government is finalising the extent of a bodaboda free-zone and the gazetting of bodaboda stages in the city.
"Future bodaboda operations will also be subjected to standard operating procedures and their return to the city will be communicated in due course." Some bodaboda operators, such as Joel Bagenda who works at Shoprite Lugogo stage in Kampala, argue that by restricting them to cargo/foodstuff, the Government has pushed them into the poverty.
"We welcome the registration process, but the Government should accept our shield innovation so that we can carry passengers as they work on the regulations.
"Ninety percent of our money is derived from passengers," he said.