The leaders of Masaka Taxi Operators and Drivers Cooperative Associations have halted the collection of members’ contributions to their Savings and Credit Societies (SACCOs) in the wake of President Museveni’s directive suspending public transport in a bid to contain the spread of the novel Coronavirus.
Masaka district has two prominent taxi operators’ cooperatives, namely, Twekobe Coaster Drivers Association and Kigege Taxi Drivers and Operators Association Limited, with 42 and 52 members respectively.
Richard Kibuuka, the General Secretary of Kigege Taxi Drivers and Operators Cooperative Society says following the president’s 14-day suspension on public transport, they have also forthwith halted their members’ payment of contribution fees to the SACCO.
According to the cooperative’s bylaws, each 14-seater taxi (owned by a member) is required to contribute shillings 10,000 to the SACCO every time it leaves Masaka with passengers, while a 26-seater coaster pays 20,000.
“We had no choice but to halt the levies until the situation returns to normal, because our members rely entirely on these taxis vehicles to earn; and now that they are not working, majority of them have no alternative sources of income,” he told theCooperator on Thursday.
Kibuuka says that besides the levies, the leadership of both cooperative societies has resolved to halt loan servicing among their membership until the suspension of public transport is lifted.
“We have people who had obtained loans, but we have found it necessary to also put a halt to their loan repayments until the situation normalizes. After all, these societies are member owned, and there is no way the debtors will service their loans without an income,” he noted.
Asked about how members will sustain themselves for a fortnight without a daily income, Kibuuka replied that the cooperative leadership will assess the situation after a week, after which they will forge a possible way of addressing the challenges.
He explains that the societies have got some savings on their respective bank accounts and that the members will discuss and agree on how those savings can be utilized, should the need arise.
Edward Lwanga, a driver on the Masaka-Kampala Coaster stage told us that they will certainly need external support to take them through the shutdown on public transport, since it is their only income source.
“This is indeed a problem that has already affected our incomes. However, we cannot compromise on our safety, or that of passengers. We are going to abide by the precautions as we wait for a second pronouncement by the authorities,” he said.