Taxi Operators are disunited about the registration exercise which the Uganda Transport Operators Federation – UTOF is proposing for all of them.
Formed in September last year, UTOF is a body that unites former independent taxi Operators’ associations of Kampala Operational Taxi Stages Association (KOTSA), Uganda Transport Development Agency (UTRADA), Uganda Taxi Operators and Drivers Association (UTODA), and Kampala Inter-Taxi Association (KITA).
The associations came together in a bid to organize the industry which had for long been torn apart with different factions organized under associations working in parallel directions often colliding with each other. As one of the ways to self-organize, UTOF is now proposing a mass registration exercise by all taxi operators including drivers, conductors, touts and guides.
The association chairman Rashid Sekindi says that they don’t have a clear record of people in this industry and hence the need to register them for proper identification.
Sekindi explains that once registration starts, each operator shall be required to provide their personal details like name, NIN number, driving permit number (for drivers), and stage of origin. A rider shall be required to provide proof that indeed they work from a particular stage and pay a yet to be determined amount of money to facilitate the process.
A poster at the entrance of the UTOF offices in Kampala indicates that an ID shall have a QR code. Sekindi says that they want to reproduce identify cards which can be scanned to produce details of the rider. He says that they need to register their members such that they can easily benefit from government programs and also implement development initiatives together as a block.
Initially, riders mainly organized under stages where they got stage IDs and some registered under the different associations. But this Sekindi says doesn’t give them a clear record of how many they are since there was no unifying record. Due to the numerous factions that existed, stages shared data with associations to which they paid allegiance.
Sekindi says that having a uniform record shall also help them in enforcing some order among riders on issues such as space ownership at stages, drivers taking passengers property and other ill behaviors that have been reported of some taxi operators. At stage level, he says, there are bi-laws but in the event that these are not respected, the uniform body can intervene to ensure that order prevails.
As UTOF pushes for registration of taxi operators, several operators are still opposed to the process wondering how relevant it is and how it defers from other initiatives that ended up nowhere.
Godfrey Kyazze, a guide at Kalerwe Ttula stage in Old Taxi Park says that apart from the registration exercise that UTOF is proposing not being known to many operators, the requirement to pay registration fee has raised questions with taxi operators wondering what benefit the exercise is to them.
Kyazze says that UTOF could have good intentions but until they are able to explain themselves, many operators shall shun the exercise. He implored UTOF to engage the Committee leadership at stages who shall in turn sensitize the other taxi drivers, conductors, touts and guides at the stages.
Johnson Kazibwe from Namugongo stage expressed ignorance about the said exercise saying he doesn’t know what it’s being brought.
Kazibwe has been told that he would require to register and get an Identity Card-ID, something he disagrees with saying that his permit is enough. In his early 40s, Kazibwe says that he has seen organizations come, people register and they collapse. He referred to Uganda Transport Operators and Drivers’ Association -UTODA which had membership of different taxi operators but later collapsed and now their IDs that they issued mean nothing.
Kazibwe says, the only Identification that makes sense to him is the driving permit.
But Kareem Mulindwa, another taxi operator says that it is important for operators to register and adopt a uniform Identify Card because this shall help them to be easily identified. He told taxi operators who are skeptical of the program saying that taxi associations often change and hence the IDs become irrelevant to be open minded after all, when associations change, the operators remain and form others.
Mulindwa says that since a digital ID shall contain an operator’s details include the permit number, in case one forgets their permit, it might be easy to scan, get a permit number and share with whoever needs it like a traffic officer and then they verify it.
He says the challenge they still face is that operators have not been properly sensitized, while others are not comfortable paying registration fees.
Fred Mutawe, a taxi driver at Kibuli stage says that he is yet to get details of the registration exercise but is willing to register such that he is properly identified as a rider from a particular stage under baring an ID of a unifying body not just a stage. He is skeptical of anyone not willing to register saying that such a person could be a criminal.
In 2020 following a COVID 19 lockdown, government under the Ministry of Works and Transport and Kampala Capital City Authority-KCCA registered taxis and operators as they moved to streamline their operations. They also created routes, and issued route charts to several taxis. However, the exercise didn’t last beyond 2020 after the route charts expired at the end of 2020 and government didn’t issue knew route charts.
Engineer Joel Wasswa, the manager roads and traffic at KCCA says that they shall resume operations on route charts soon. He however says that the authority is yet to know of UTOF’s efforts to register taxi operators. He says that taxis are not self-regulating and hence, their efforts may not have a clear future.
KCCA is currently working on a Public Transport Management Ordinance to regulate operations of public transport including taxis in Kampala. The bill among others guides on Registration of taxi operators, identification, election of a leadership and having a management with KCCA involved.