KAMPALA, Uganda – Parliament has opposed the prolonged reluctance by the government to fully open up the motorcycle taxi business (boda boda) country wide.
As part of the measures to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, government decided to limit the operations of boda boda riders to delivery of merchandise and yet they realise more earnings from transporting passengers.
Legislators during the Thursday, 17 July 2020 sitting punched holes into the justification to have boda boda riders locked down while their counterparts in the taxi and bus business are operating.
MPs said that an industry that employs about two million people and has been out of business since the lock down to curb the spread of coronavirus was announced in March, should be of urgent concern to government.
“One of the challenges we face is youth unemployment and boda bodas provide youth with income, but you have now denied over 200 people a daily meal,” said Dokolo Woman MP Cecilia Ogwal.
“I have so many boda bodas who are asking me where they can go for posho and beans and I cannot help them,” she added.
The national representative for workers, Dr Sam Lyomoki wondered how hard it is for the Ministry of Health to develop standard operating procedures for businesses to resume, when they are known ways of controlling Covid-19.
“Ideally when a rider puts on a helmet and the passenger puts on a mask, they are healthier enough. I do not know why the Ministry of Health did not make standard operating guidelines for boda bodas as well, when majority of families in our communities depend on income from boda bodas,” said Lyomoki.
The long spell of unemployment, MPs said, has turned boda boda riders into criminals and that most have turned homeless.
The Kawempe North MP, Latif Sebaggala, expressed concern that the majority of boda boda riders in his constituency live on income from carrying passengers, and that in addition to the long spell of no business, their motorcycles were impounded at Police stations where they are charged between Shs 100,000 and 50,000 to redeem a single motorcycle.
The Minister of State for Works and Transport, Joy Kabatsi, said that government was still challenged with tracing Covid-19 cases that may travel on boda bodas. She revealed that Cabinet has had numerous meetings on the matter but the answers on how to operate safely are still wanting.
”The question of a boda boda picking someone who is infected and taking them deep inside in the communities is a concern. Boda bodas are the only means of transport that can reach deep in the country side. We are looking at how to trace contact that use bodas; that question was put before us by the President and we are trying to look for answers” said Kabatsi.
Kabatsi’s justification, however, was met with resistance from MPs and the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga who said it was irrelevant and lacked empathy.
“I think that government should find better reasons. The reasons you are giving are no longer relevant. In other places where there is such a lock down, they have provided food. What have you provided for boda bodas? Do you ever think of how they live, do you know how their families live?” asked Kadaga.
The Speaker demanded for a timely report from the Ministry of Works and Transport on the steps taken to re-instate boda bodas.
On 25 June 2020, the Boda boda Association of Kiira Municipality in Wakiso district petitioned Kadaga to intervene in their plight.