Vendors sell their merchandise along the railway track in Namuwongo, a Kampala suburb (file photo).
By Amos Ngwomoya & Derrick Wandera
Kampala — Ms Susan Namwanje, 36, a mother of four, nervously sits with her basket of yellow ripe bananas at one of the entrances to the Old Taxi Park on Luwum Street in Kampala.
She steals glances at every one who passes for any signs of Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) law enforcement officers.
But her fear is quickly rested as two fellow vendors join her to also sell the sweet yellow fruits as they share pleasantries.
Daily Monitor approaches the trio to ascertain why they are vending in the open, a practice that has been aggressively fought by the city law enforcers commonly referred to as askaris.
Ms Namwanje quickly responds that the city law enforcers are no longer on streets, something she says has since given them the freedom to vend freely.
“We have been operating from here since Monday because all the KCCA law enforcement officers are nowhere to be seen. We were told they were recalled because of the death of one of our members last week, and we’re using this opportunity to make some quick sales before they return,” she says.
But Ms Namwanje in between sneaky glances across the street says they are vending amid fear because they don’t know when KCCA would redeploy its mean law enforcers.
Besides Luwum Street, many other streets and roads in the city’s central business district are all teeming with the vendors.
For the last four days, it has been business unusual in the city centre as the vendors have occupied the streets in the absence of the city’s law enforcers.
But the influx of the vendors onto streets has angered city traders who are now warning they will also pour their merchandise onto the streets to compete with the vendors who are hijacking their customers.
“The death of a vendor last week wasn’t our mistake, but the negligence of KCCA. They can’t therefore use their negligence to frustrate us,” said Mr Godfrey Katongole, the chairperson of Kampala Arcade Traders Association (Kata).
KCCA has temporarily recalled its law enforcers following the death of Olivia Basemera, a street vendor, who plunged into Nakivubo waste drainage channel and died on the spot last Friday as she was reportedly being pursued by some city law enforcers.
Her death has since caused an uproar, with the public and some politicians questioning the criteria used in recruiting the KCCA law enforcers.
During a council meeting on Wednesday at the City Hall, the city councillors resolved that the deceased’s children be taken care of by KCCA.
Kamya defends KCCA
But Kampala Affairs minister Beti Olive Kamya defended the KCCA law enforcers, saying although a vendor died during their operation, they were legally executing their work.
“We are sorry for what happened but our officers did not push that lady into the channel, but she accidentally fell there. It was her destiny and she was unlucky. This must not be an excuse to break the law,” she said.
The minister urged all vendors to vacate the streets, saying the law against street vending hasn’t been reversed.
She said the law enforcers were recalled to streamline their operations.
Meanwhile, the family of the deceased vendor has issued a notice of intention to sue KCCA, asking them to pay Shs800m in compensation. KCCA has only five days to respond to the notice.
“… the family of the late Basemera demands that you pay them a total sum of Shs 810,700,500 as compensation,” reads the notice from Asinguza and Co. Advocates dated August 9.
But by press time, the KCCA technocrats headed by executive director Jennifer Musisi were still appearing before Parliament.
In 2014, a woman dumped her dead baby at City Hall after a KCCA vehicle had run over her. The toddler had been brought to be breastfed by the mother who had been detained at KCCA Court over street vending. KCCA later compensated the mother of the child with Shs50m.
Early this year, a woman with her four children camped at City Hall, demanding KCCA compensates her for illegally demolishing her stall at Usafi market. She later calmed down when Kampala Central MP, Muhammed Nsereko, donated to her Shs5m to start a new business.