Kampala, Uganda: Traders under the Kampala Arcaders and Traders Association (KATA) have challenged President Museveni to sign the Landlord and Tenant Bill into law, or risk losing the next general elections in 2021.
Speaking during the KATA general assembly held at JBK hotel in Kampala, the traders called upon the President to resist overtures from landlords and sign the Bill into law, or risk backlash from them come 2021.
“We understand that the landlords met with the president requesting him not to sign the bill. The president will have to decide either to be elected by one landlord or the many tenants (traders),” said Godfrey Katongole, the KATA Chairperson.
Katongole argued that for long, traders have been oppressed from all sides, from their landlords to Uganda Revenue Authority and Uganda National Bureau of Standards, who he said in addition to charging them high taxes, routinely arrest traders and confiscate their goods considered substandard, oftentimes after they’re already cleared and taxed by the government.
“The president is mistaken to think that people in Kampala don’t like him. What they don’t like are the people in his government who oppress traders, provoking disaffection for his government,” Katongole argued.
He said that in the Landlord and Tenant Bill, the government has an opportunity to finally do something for traders. The Bill was passed by Parliament in June this year amidst protestations from landlords.
Under the proposed law, owners of arcades and other commercial buildings will no longer be allowed to charge rent in dollars as has been the case, with the currency of payment strictly limited to Uganda Shillings. The law also barrs from increasing rent of a property by more than 10% in a single year and requires them to give tenants six months’ notice before eviction, in the event of the latter defaulting on payment of rent.
At the General Meeting held on Tuesday, members of KATA officially launched a financial cooperative – Kampala Traders Cooperative Savings and Credit Society Limited. The cooperative has been in existence for the last six months, and already has 500 members.
The launch was presided over by Mangusho Lawrence Cherop, the Member of Parliament for Kween County and vice chairperson of Uganda parliamentary sectoral committee on trade, tourism and industry, who represented the Speaker of Parliament.
Adressing the traders, Mangusho called upon them to first exhaust all avenues for peaceful settlement of their outstanding issues, before considering radical alternatives. “I’m glad I am here,” he said, adding “I recommend that you come up with a petition. I will help you deliver it to the Speaker, who I am confident will handle your issues swiftly.”
On his part, Charles Nsambu, the Chairperson Zebra House, one of the arcades in the city center cautioned city traders against the temptation to mix the activities of KATA (the association) from the SAACO, if the new cooperative is to succeed. He also advised the leaders of the newly launched cooperative to consider constructing business premises for its members to enable them escape the “rent-trap.”
“Most of these buildings in town are owned by people who constructed using borrowed money,” he said, adding, “If KATA could also borrow and build, it would save her members and traders from running battles with landlords.”