By Aggrey Nshekanabo
One thing I hate about being in Kampala is its stupid traffic. And it is made worse when every red number plated car thinks it has right of way. Sometimes, you see this ‘no gooder’ with no purpose in the running of the state with a lead car complete with sirens blaring to give him/her way. I have muttered under heavy breath; “jump or fly!”
In fact, I am of the view that the state should buy its stately ‘no gooders’ some small aircraft carriers so that we, the dregs of society can stop inconveniencing them. For the 10 or so straight years I was in Kampala, one thing I had mastered was how to maneuvour through Kampala.
I knew all the ‘options’ to get around with a car at the expense of more fuel until ‘everyone’ seemed to have discovered them that I went for the ‘bodaboda’. If Safe Boda was to reward customers, I would come tops because their riders have always come in handy. And who gives a hoot, about 10 years ago, I saw Mr. Kannanathan of the infamous “AGOA Tri-Star apparels conduit’ abandon his black Merc for a bodaboda to beat the traffic and be in time for a meeting.
Whereas the bodaboda has become the best ‘option’ to beat the traffic, you better be careful how the rider handles the motorbike taxi; otherwise, you may hurry to Mulago Hospital’s casualty Ward where the bulk of the patients in there are bodaboda taxi victims.
But then again, with just about 1.2 million cars in Uganda (URA figures) where 90% are in Kampala, why would the city be this jammed? I used to sympathise with people on Nansana-Hoima road and Entebbe Kampala and Kabalaggala-Gaba routes. And between Mukono and Kampala, you can be sure that on any given day, the 21km distance would require not less than 3 hours. On average, at peak time (7-8am and 7-10pm) one can be sure of spending 1-2 hours between Ntinda and Namugongo, a distance of less than 15 simply. Yet, in 2012 when I shifted to this route, there were even no taxis between Namugongo and Ntinda.
The cause of these traffic gridlocks are because the alternative routes are impassable. There is a valley between Kyambogo-Ntinda road and Naalya through Joglo with an alternate path but whether in the wet or dry season, unless one is driving a four-wheel car, it is a dangerous path. With simple tarmac, it would ease traffic between Kigoowa and Naalya. For example between Kisaasi and Najjera through Kungu, there are good alternative paths but in poor condition. One therefore has to squeeze themselves through Naalya yet, the Kungu route would give a breather. There are so such many alternatives anyway, except that someone is busy scratching their ‘balls.’
Being the explorative fellow I am, I once attempted to use the passenger ‘kayoola’ train between Kampala and Seeta as an alternative to the silly grindlock at Lugogo, Nakawa, Spear, Banda, Kireka, Bweyogerere and Namanve! I instead surrendered my ticket to someone ‘willing’ to die’ for any available space on any of the 8 (eight coaches). I am sure if the coaches were increased and a little more decent, many ‘corporates’ would jump on the train. In constructing the Entebbe Express Highway (which even when it is still free is underused), if anyone was thinking, the amount of passenger haulage between Entebbe and Kampala with stops in Makindye, Lweza, Kajjansi, Kisubi, Abayit’ababiri and Entebbe town would reduce on the gridlock between Queens Way and Kajjansi. You can never talk of a ‘midro yinkamu’ status in the 2020 without sorting out the transport mess in the city. Any city worth its salt has a well-laid-down transport network with train haulage. For Kampala, this is a pipe dream, the wait for it to sort the traffic mess will be like waiting for a pot-bellied man to ‘produce twins’ after nine months.
The point I am making is, someone is sitting on their brains or the brains are in inactive mode. There is little or no hope in the newly appointed Military General at the Ministry of Works, even if he means well because every ‘important’ decision on any sector is not taken at the sector’s boardroom but at plot 1 Uganda. And that can be very overwhelming to the occupant especially when you are strategizing with a ‘singing wine’ that bobs your head as you focus at the upcoming election of 2021.
One would then ask where the money to do this would come from. See the state’s taximan picks money worth over Ushs.152 billion by doing absolutely nothing from you and I. Let me explain. Last week, in trying to renew my permit, I was first asked to go and pay 130,000/- to the bank. Purpose? No good answer from Face Technologies. Anyone who wishes to acquire a permit must first give the state Ushs. 130,000/- Going by the figure of 1.2 million cars, agreeing that every driver has a driving permit; one has to first pay Ushs.130,000/- in a bank which is directly wired to Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) coffers.
This money is collected by the banks from every individual who sits behind the wheel. On average, for every car and motorcycle, there are two drivers/riders to it with a permit. Therefore, the Ushs.152 billion income is on the down side. This amount by the way, excludes bodaboda motorists who also pay the same 130,000/- to acquire riding permits. Then for every permit that you acquire and part with Ushs.80,000/- at Face Technologies again, this is taxable income to Face Technologies, which the Kyambogo outfit has to remit a percentage without fail.
But what can the Ushs.152 billion do? This amount is two times the budget of Ministry of Tourism and many other ministries and agencies. But also, what has the state done to earn this money? Absolutely nothing. It is freely collected at no cost at all. And since it is freely collected, then it can freely be spent on Presidential Advisors such as Kasariini Kusasira, Fuulu figa and Buchamaani! Sorry pal, the state cheats you. Learn to live with it and save your heart!
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