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COVID-19: Kasese Taxi operators demonstrate over savings

Kasese taxi operators and drivers operating from Bwera stage in Kasese town have staged a demonstration demanding an explanation from the leadership of the 156-member Kasese Taxi Operators and Drivers Association (KATODA) over their savings.

More than 30 drivers and operators who took part in the demonstration said they wanted to withdraw part of their savings over the last three years to take them through the two-week period during which all public transport as been suspended. 

The temporary ban on public transport was declared by President Yoweri Museveni on March 25 as on of several measures aimed at stemming the spread of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Uganda.  

Ismail Mwesige, one of the drivers at the taxi stage, accused the KATODA’s Chairman of being inconsiderate of their needs and yet they have families they take care of.

“I have been saving Shs. 15,000 daily with the association for the for the last six years, but whenever I ask about my money, none of the (KATODA) executives can give me an explanation. I have decided to demonstrate so that they can understand my suffering. I need part of my savings to rescue my family,” Mwesigye said.

Another driver, Richard Musinguzi, stressed that the striking taxi operators want to be given a part of their savings and not the food rations that the association is allegedly planning to dole out to constrained members. 

“We have heard that the committee is trying to buy beans and posho for us, but we are not interested in that. Let them give us our money so that we can plan for ourselves; after all our reason for setting up this fund was to act as social welfare,” he said.

Several members who spoke to theCooperator estimate that each of them has saved at least Shs. 16.2 million with the association over the past three years.  

The association’s Chairperson, Ray Musinguzi, confirmed that members indeed pay Shs. 15,000 daily as social fund and operation fees, as well as Shs. 4000 for loading passengers. However, he insists that not all the amount contributed is the drivers’ to withdraw.

 “It is true that drivers pay Shs. 15,000 daily as operations fees. These funds are used to run the office and to help members during moments of sickness, death of relatives and to look after the widows and orphans of drivers who die. It is not their money,” Musinguzi said. 

Musinguzi explained that of the Shs.4000 each vehicle pays daily for loading,  Shs. 1000 is given back to a driver in case he does not work, to cater for his lunch, while 10% of the remaining Shs. 3000 is saved directly to each driver’s personal account in their SACCO.

“If anything, they are supposed to be demanding the 10% share we put on their account, but not the Shs. 15, 000,” he clarified. “As management we are supposed to plan for them, not them for us.” 

He also rubbished the drivers’ claims that they were owed at least three years’ worth of savings, saying they were only owed money for one year.

However, he promised that management would meet to discuss how to respond to the members’ grievances.

“We are going to sit and see what to do for them, but we cannot give them the whole amount as if Coronavirus is going to end today.” 

Muhammad Korutaro, the Chairperson of the drivers’ SACCO, blamed the drivers’ action on ignorance, saying the majority were new and, hence, not conversant with the guidelines of both the SACCO and the association.

"The problem with these people is that they do not differentiate between the SACCO and the association, and so they are complaining over something that they do not understand,” Korutaro said. 

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