The Police deputy Spokesperson for Kampala-metropolitan area, Luke Owesigyiire has cautioned boda-boda riders to observe presidential directives regarding bodaboda operation, saying riders working after 5:00 pm risk having their motorbikes confiscated.
Addressing Journalists at Uganda Media Centre on Wednesday, Owesigyiire revealed that, in a crackdown conducted on Monday and Tuesday this week, police impounded over 800 motorbikes in Kampala and surrounding areas.
“Majority of these motorcycles were flouting the guidelines issued by Ministry of Health. They were given express penalties, many of whom complied by paying and were given back their motorcycles,” Owesigyiire said.
He added that the police would continue to enforce the guidelines to ensure they are observed.
“We are going to push harder and make sure these operations go ahead. Please remain vigilant, follow the guidelines and have all that’s required to ride a motorcycle.” he said.
Among measures to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic was President Yoweri Museveni’s directive that boda-bodas should not carry passengers but luggage only, and strictly operate from 6.30 am to 5:00pm.
These guidelines remained unchanged even after many of the lockdown restrictions on public transport were lifted, provoking anger among boda-boda operators, who argue that it’s not fair for government to keep them locked-up while it allows taxi operators to carry passengers.
This has kept them at loggerheads with the police as many continue to defy the president’s directives on this matter. Early this month, a 29 year old Hussein Walugembe set himself ablaze inside Masaka Central Police Station (CPS), where he burned to death after a futile attempt to recover his motorbike impounded by police.
Police reportedly asked Walugembe to pay a Shs 150,000 bribe as fine, which he didn’t have at the time. President Yoweri Museveni this week offered Shs 10m worth of condolences to the bereaved family.
Bodas groan under restrictions
Sam Amanyire, an entrepreneur in the boda-boda sector says that the lockdown measures have negatively impacted the industry, with dire consequences for riders and investors.
Amanyire revealed that over 50 of his motorbikes had been impounded since lockdown started, forcing him to wind-up operations in Bundibugyo district where he had about 400 motorcycles in operation, employing young people.
“Even Tugende, a sister company dealing in transport services, has closed operations in Bundibugyo. So, now you can imagine, how many people have been affected, how many have lost jobs. Even we the entrepreneurs have lost investments. We cannot see any justification for this! What informs the decisions that government officials make?” Amanyire asked.
He contends that government is making decisions for political reasons but not necessarily in the public interest
“Even if we get these motorbikes out, we would not be making money from them. In the name of COVID-19, government is killing people. It’s making them more vulnerable. Government is making it impossible for people to earn a living decently, and we are likely to see a rise in crime because people have to resort to all sorts of things to survive,” he warned.
Lasto Ssemakula, the Chairperson of Kampala Civil Centre Bodaboda Transporters Cooperative Society (KCCBT) argues that government should organise the sector and help boda-boda operators diversify into other economic ventures like agriculture rather than frustrate them through punitive deterrent mechanisms for flouting curfew.
“We have multi-purpose cooperatives and if they (government) can give us money, we can engage in other economic ventures like agriculture, so that we don’t have to only rely on riding boda-boda for a living, which is difficult to survive from currently,” Ssemakula said.