Kampala — A fresh row has erupted over allocation of shops in the New Taxi Park, with some traders accusing the executive of the New Park Lock-Up Owners Association Ltd of denying them shops they had paid for.
The traders, in a petition dated September 2017, to Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago, claim that resolutions of the association's meeting on December 11, 2010, granted all founder members shops on the ground floor.
The shops in question, in downtown Kampala, on Namirembe and Mackay roads, are still under construction.
The petitioners led by Mr Hussein Kakooza and Ms Sarah Nabuma claim that Mr John Fred Kiyimba, the chairperson of the association, gave out their shops to other people.
"... the allocation list dated June 6, 2013, was fraudulently done in our absence whereby chairman John Fred Kiyimba allocated to himself nine shops and Kikubo Bumu Traders getting five shops in breach of each founder member getting one shop on the ground floor before considering outsiders from Kikubo and elsewhere," their petition reads in part.
"... our money was used to pay for the land and construction of the foundation and ground floor shops, but now the shops are being allocated to new members ignoring us the founder members as agreed on December 11, 2010," the petition adds.
Documents seen by Daily Monitor indicate that each trader was required to pay Shs88.5 million for a shop. But the traders now fear that they may lose out when the construction of shops is completed.
But Mr Martin Muhumuza, the secretary and lawyer of the shop owners association, says the complainants have no grounds for petition because they did not have money to pay for the shops on the ground floor when it was demanded.
"While allocating the shops in the New Taxi Park, the policy was first come, first served. Those who paid by the time we advertised got shops and those complaining did not pay on time, and we couldn't wait for them because we needed money to complete the exercise," he says.
Mr Muhumuza says Mr Kakooza and Ms Nabuma, who are the lead petitioners, ran to court over the same but they lost the case.
However, Mr Kakooza insists that he has all the receipts indicating that he paid Shs88.5 million for the ground shop.
"Why are they telling lies in broad daylight yet we have evidence? What pains us is that our shops on the ground floor were given out to people from Kikuubo yet they are not founders. I paid my money and I have all the receipts," he said.
Daily Monitor understands that the New Park Lock-Up Owners Association Ltd acquired a 49-year lease at Shs3b from Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) to redevelop part of the New Taxi Park into a mega shopping complex.
The association plans to construct 930 shops, up from the original 240 which existed on the same space before the park was demolished in 2012 to pave way for the construction of the current one.
The New Taxi Park is located in the city business centre and is surrounded by bustling trade hubs that include Kisekka Market and many other arcades such as Ham Shopping Mall, Qualicel Arcade, Nabukera Plaza, Sauriyako, and Nakivubo War Memorial Stadium.
Mr Muhumuza said although their lease runs for 49 years, they first got five years during the initial stages of processing the lease and were added another 30 years during construction.
When construction is finally completed, Mr Muhumuza said, they will then get the full 49-year lease.
Even as the shops are still under construction, the park has since been completed and is being used by passengers and all operations are managed by KCCA.
However, the KCCA committees of legal affairs and physical planning are yet to commence their probe into the controversy surrounding the allocation of shops in the New Taxi Park.
The two committees will work jointly and compile a report to be tabled before the city council for more discussion before a resolution is made.
Mr Abubaker Kawaalya, the chairperson of the physical planning committee, said on Wednesday that they are yet to commence a probe into the New Taxi Park controversy.
"The probe will be led by the committee of legal affairs, but they haven't released the programme which will guide us while executing the work. Once the programme is set, we shall definitely begin because we need to finish this on time so that we embark on other pending work," he said.
KCCA has since unveiled plans of building a multi-level parking in the New Taxi Park to decongest the city and ease traffic flow.
Meanwhile, the redevelopment of the Old Taxi Park has failed to commence over a similar wrangle by businessmen.
Last month, Mr Samuel Serunkuuma, the KCCA deputy executive director, said the land on which the Old Taxi Park sits remains contested and has frustrated its redevelopment.
The fight for shops is now a common feature among city traders.
For instance, traders at Kisekka Market, which borders the New Taxi Park, are wrangling over allocation of shops in the market which is also under construction.
This newspaper has seen several petitions by a group of Kisekka Market traders accusing their current executive of giving away shops to non-members.
Also, at Usafi market, a facility owned by KCCA, some traders are accusing the city authorities of evicting them from shops under unclear circumstances. In the city arcades, the majority of traders are battling landlords over double allocation of shops.