Government has bowed to pressure from taxi operators and suspended the new monthly taxi fee of Shs80,000 after a demonstration by the latter in the Old Taxi Park.
The suspension was announced by the State Minister for Local government, Jennifer Namuyangu during a crisis meeting with taxi operators at the Ministry headquarters.
The Minister noted that government would review the new levy so as to reach an amicable ground that would favor both parties.
“We shall review this levy and come up with a uniform figure which all taxi operators will be required to pay to mitigate such demonstrations. For now, this fee has been suspended and no taxi should be impounded in any town council,” Namuyangu told taxi operators.
However, she maintained that other taxi guidelines as set out by the Ministry wouldn’t be suspended, urging taxi operators to observe them.
“I request you to remain calm as we handle this issue. We shall communicate this suspension to all local council authorities,” she said.
Yesterday’s demonstration was sparked off by the authorities in Jinja District who impounded 14 taxis, demanding for a monthly fee of Shs80,000 per taxi as directed by the Ministry.
This caused uproar among taxi operators in the Old Taxi Park especially those plying the Eastern route to park their taxis in solidarity with their colleagues in Jinja whose taxis had been impounded.
The new contested levy is contained among the guidelines which were issued by the Ministry of Local Government in December last year.
However, they became effective on July 1 this year.
According to the guidelines, taxi operators are required to pay or deposit a monthly parking fee of Shs 80,000 to a local government or an urban authority’s back account, where the vehicle picks and drops passengers.
Local governments are then supposed to issue a monthly park sticker after confirming that the fees have been paid in a designated bank account.
This sticker will be displayed on the vehicle, preferably, on the windscreen. However, taxi operators have since protested.
In the mid-morning hours, passengers worriedly looked on as taxi operators vowed not to start any vehicle unless the Local Government Minister shows up.
No taxi operator dared loading passengers as they feared to be lynched, leaving passengers stuck with their luggage.
“I came here today [yesterday] at 6am because I was supposed to be at work by 9 am in Jinja. However, I couldn’t proceed because all taxis going to the Eastern region are not working. I pray that they resume work so that we can travel,” said Nassir Kirunda, a radio presenter on Baba FM.
Mustapha Mayambala, the Chairperson of Uganda Transporters Development Agency (Utrada) accused government of being inconsiderate to taxi operators.
He explained that taxi operators currently pay a monthly road user fee of Shs120,000 to Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) and a Passenger Service Vehicle fee of Shs580,000 every year to the Ministry of Works and Transport.
“When we met the President in 2015, he directed both KCCA and the Ministry of Local government to streamline the taxation system of all taxis by scraping off all multiple taxes but they have failed to heed his directive. Instead of just suspending the collection of this new fee, government should just scrap it off because it’s unnecessary,’ he said.
He noted that Shs80,000 is supposed to be paid to all town councils that a taxi passes through before reaching their destination.
“This implies that if you are going to Jinja, you will be required to pay a monthly fee of Shs80,000 to each town council and if they are five, this means that you will be paying Shs400,000 coupled with other charges. This is totally unfair.
Hajji Musa Jjuko, a driver said: “We are tired of this mistreatment by government and if they don’t revoke this new levy, we shall seek alternative means.”
“This is being unfair and also expensive for the taxi owners because this counts as double taxation. Furthermore, this is detrimental to the transportation system as the cost is ultimately passed onto the passenger,” reads in part the President’s letter dated December 13 2015, addressed to KCCA and Ministry of Local Government.
Joseph Bakaleke, DPC Kampala Central Police Station warned taxi operators against causing violence. He requested them to be calm and resume work immediately.