Police have been deployed in and around the Old Taxi Park in Kampala to enforce relocation of taxis.
Taxis plying Entebbe route have been relocated to Usafi Park. The Entebbe stage in the Old Park is now occupied by taxis plying Mukono-Seeta route.
This comes a day after Minister for Kampala Beti Kamya said that taxi operators had been given one last chance to vacate the park while those operating at stages along Kampala streets to move into designated taxi parks.
“This is not a KCCA directive. Cabinet sat and approved. Those who will try to resist relocation will be forced out by the KCCA enforcement team. We have a government in this country,” Ms Kamya told NTV on Monday.
According to Ms Kamya taxi operators will return to the park after completion of the planned renovation.
Many taxi operators told this reporter that they were not aware of the deadline for relocation because they had not been informed.
“No one ever told us that we were to be relocated. We’re just seeing it in the media,” one taxi operator said and vowed to defy.
Following the minister’s warning, drivers from Entebbe reportedly spent a night in the Old Taxi Park, guarding their stage.
However, eye witnesses said on Tuesday that police deployed at the park beat them before they drove their cars out.
A troop carrier, a teargas truck and police patrol cars with policemen standing guard were seen near the taxi park
By the time of filing this report, taxis were exiting the park through Burton Street near Mega Standard Supermarket.
Ben Kiwanuka Street which is usually jammed with taxis plying Entebbe Road has also been cleared. KCCA recently said the street would be turned into one-way.
What Taxi operators say
Mr Richard Kiyaga, the Old Taxi Park Entebbe Stage manager, said they had never received any communication from KCCA about the relocation.
“We simply learnt of this over the radio and we have never received any letter. Given that we serve the public, we ought to be treated in a way that will compel our passengers to give us respect. We are staying here. They should come and talk to us and we agree on how to handle the situation,” Mr Kiyaga said.
Last Friday, Mr Kiyaga petitioned Kampala Affairs minister Beti Kamya to stay the relocation until the security of passengers in Usafi Park is guaranteed.
“Safety from the central area to Usafi via Clock Town is extremely a big concern after 9pm. Madam minister, it is also a big concern that such a non-negotiated transfer can give chance to sponsors of street stages to occupy this stage. This is a feared trick,” the letter reads in part.
He also said Entebbe tax stage has a big fleet of vehicles that cannot fit in Usafi. Mr Kiyaga said the stage employs a total of 1,800 drivers and conductors, who transport up to 1,500 passengers daily, using close to 800 taxis.
The secretary for defence at the Entebbe stage, Mr Francis Mawanda, asked KCCA to accord them audience about their grievances.
“Government should first come and listen to us and we share with them the challenges we may encounter so that they plan for us when we relocate,” Mr Mawanda said.
He said they would need a minimum of six months to relocate from the Old Taxi Park.
Mr Sowedi Kafero, a taxi driver at Usafi Taxi Park, said because of security concerns, very few passengers use the park.
“It has taken me up to three hours to have this taxi fill up and I may not drive back to this park. Most passengers are coming and because of the need to move fast, they are forced to opt for other means,” he said.
However, KCCA insisted the relocation will continue as planned. Mr Peter Kauju, the KCCA spokesperson, said they have held discussions with the leaders of the taxi operators.
“We were still finalising with the traffic signals and this morning, the exercise will commence. We have been sensitising all the stakeholders, especially the leaders and they are all aware,” he said.
Asked what will happen if the taxi operators resist the relocation, Mr Kauju said there will be no need for resistance.
“We have already planned and come tomorrow (today), we shall start the exercise. We have been at the affected locations, even with loud speakers informing them of the planned reorganisation so they all know that they are moving,” he added.
KCCA says all taxis plying Entebbe Road shall be moved from Old Taxi Park to Usafi Park. The following stages in Old Taxi Park shall be relocated to Usafi Park: Entebbe stage, Kajjansi stage, Zana- Namasuba stage, Kasenyi stage, Ndeeba- Sembuule stage, Kibuye Queens way stage and Ndejje Stage
The vehicles currently operating on streets around the old park will be moved to the park.
The stages that have been operating on streets around Shoprite, Shell and Gapco fuel stations but ply Ggaba road shall move to the Old Taxi Park to replace those that have been relocated to Usafi.