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COVID-19 delays completion of Mbarara City market

Traders in Mbarara municipality will have to wait till mid next year for the completion of the highly anticipated new Mbarara Central Market following yet another extension of the project’s completion date due to the COVID-19 pandemic, theCooperator has learnt.

The delay will come as a major disappointed for traders, many of whom had hoped that the four-storied modern market facility would be launched in time for the Municipality’s elevation to city status, which is slated for July 1 this year.

Construction of the Shs 21bn market began on February 14, 2018 under the Markets and Agricultural Trade Improvement Project (MATIP) meant to alleviate poverty and improve agricultural trade.  

As such, all vendors were temporarily allocated to the municipality’s Independence Park grounds where they continue to operate to this day. 

According to Mayor Robert Mugabe Kakyebezi, the market project was supposed to be handed over within a 24-month period from start date, adding that it was due to be handed over to the vendors in February 2020. He blamed the COVID-19 pandemic and its related restrictions for the project’s delay.

“Corona interfered with developments in our municipality such as construction of Mbarara central market which should have been handed over by now so that traders can start using their facility,” he said.

The municipality leadership, headed by the Town Clerk, Theophilus Tibihika, confirmed in a press conference last Wednesday that the market is as yet incomplete.

Tibihika also attributed the delay in completion to seasonal rains and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Previously we had an extension up to May 2020, but you know a lockdown was announced unexpectedly in March. And whereas workers were allowed to reside on site, most of the hardware shops were under lockdown and some other materials were being ferried in from Kampala and elsewhere. Because of that shock and unease, it became imperative that we extend the contracts’ execution,” Tibihika said.

Mayor Kakyebezi also reported that the lockdown had affected progress on other infrastructure projects in the Municipality, such as the installation of 704 street lights around Mbarara town, funded under the USMID project to a tune of Shs 6.5bn.

“Among the projects which were affected by COVID-19 were some roads which were under construction, as well as the installation of street lights on Mbarara roads,” the Mayor said.

Rogers Betunga, a central market trader dealing in agrochemicals says traders are impatient to settle into the new market premises

“When they started constructing we had all the hopes of joining our new market in time but now with such contract extensions we are losing the morale,” he said.

He also challenged government for allegedly constructing small stalls in the new market which will not be able to cater for their business stock.

“The stalls (in the new market) have limited space and we fear that some of them will not accommodate all our stock,” Betunga said. 

Donozio Kibanda, the Publicity Secretary for the central market vendors, admits that the stalls in the new market are small. However, he says it was done so as to cater for all the 1500 vendors that originally occupied the central market. 

“Yes it’s true the market stalls are small but they were deliberately partitioned that way so that the new market can accommodate all the vendors that initially occupied the old central market. We are very many compared to the size of the market that is under construction,” says Kibanda.

The Town Clerk, Tibihika, urged the central market vendors to patiently await completion of construction in 2021.

 “We request the traders to exercise patience as the works are being delivered, after all they are under no pressure to leave their current place of operation,” he said.

 Tibihika further stressed that the contractor does not bear any blame for the delays in the project since the pandemic was “an act of God”.

“It was not that they failed to execute the project, but this was an act of God. It was beyond their control,” he said.

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