By Agnes K. Namaganda
On June 18, President Museveni announced a 42-day lockdown due to another wave of the Covid19 pandemic that was ravaging the nation. This abrupt closure of businesses is something that many traders in Kampala City had not envisaged.
What is disheartening though, is that while the President gave students a few days to scurry back to their homes when he announced the closure of schools, traders in Kampala City were not given the privilege of planning for the lockdown.
They retired home that day to a presidential address later that evening, only to realise that they could not return to their places of work the following day.
These traders have appealed to, in the least, get their merchandise and vacate premises, in order to avoid the burden of paying rent for months when businesses will be closed but their pleas have been completely ignored.
Some have products that will get damaged during the lockdown which may exceed 42 days, judging from the previous experience of extending lockdowns.
Others would want to sell their products online during this period but they have not received any consideration to enable them stay financially viable. Some actually have their money locked up in the shop safes.
It is important to note that during last year’s three months of total lockdown, most of these traders were forced to pay rent for this period even though they were not working.
The President did not intervene to offer financial assistance to landlords that were depending on this rent to facilitate their bank loans, neither did government give any assistance to traders to enable them recover from the effects of the lockdown.
There was a verbal petition by the President for landlords to mercifully deal with their tenants but that was just about it. There was no concerted effort to make sure that traders in Kampala are purposefully nursed back to considerable financial health.
This palpable lack of concern for Kampala traders is against the backdrop of relief funds from several international organisations that were offered to the country to enable different sectors deal with the adverse effects of the lockdown.
This lack of concern regarding the plight of traders in Kampala is one of the reasons the President performed poorly in Kampala in the previous presidential elections. The President would now be expected to be working towards improving his image before Kampala voters who happen to be these traders but he doesn’t seem to be having advisers that are pointing this out to him.
The tax burden on traders is so high yet foreign investors keep getting waivers and tax holidays that are not enjoyed by locals.
The country was locked down to reduce the spread of infections but must Kampala traders be treated unfairly in the process while businesses in neighbouring towns, in cities around the country, plus industries, are operating.
President Museveni has solely heaped blame for the spread of the virus on the public but this is far from the truth. Even then, Kampala arcade traders shouldn’t be punished as a consequence.
Most deaths were at health facility level and the public was not responsible for the lack of oxygen which led to massive deaths.
It is government that manages the taxes collected from the people and they were in charge of preparing adequately for a future spike in infections, which they had foreseen correctly.
With the funding received to fight Covid-19, health facilities were supposed to be equipped with all necessities.
It was equally government’s responsibility to keep up with the vigorous sensitisation and policing of the public regarding standard operating procedures to avoid a rise in infections.
Agnes K. Namaganda, Politician