Masindi Market Vendors Strike over Increased Taxes

1770 Views Masindi, Uganda
Masindi Central Market was paralyzed this morning by a vendors strike. The vendors are angry about a 300 percent increase in trading licenses, daily market dues and rent. Today, they refused to work and instead pitched camp at the office of the Town Clerk demanding for a hearing. Musa Majemaje, who specializes in bananas from Ntungamo and Mbarara districts, says that before the rise in market dues, he paid 60,000 shillings for each lorry of matooke. He says that now he is required to pay 150,000 shillings, a cost that is threatening the survival of his business. Majemaje has refused to pay taxes since Monday. He says that as a result he was barred from selling his matooke, which is ripening in heaps. Other matooke vendors who have bowed to the pressure to pay the new taxes have responded by passing the burden to customers. A price of matooke in Masindi Central Market has risen from 10,000 shillings to 17,000 shillings over the past few days. Jane Mbabazi does not sell entire bunches of matooke, but rather the banana fingers that fall onto the floor of the lorry during transportation. She says the taxation is unfair. Mbabazi says that people who purchase lorries of matooke are already charged an exorbitant fee. According to her, it is unfair for the municipal council to charge an extra 30,000 shillings from vendors like herself. //Cue in: iWhen these people #i Cue out: i# and we see.i// Florence Akello trades mainly in dry beans and other cereals, locally termed as iebyomerei. She says she didn't hesitate to join the strike because her monthly dues were raised from 5,000 to 20,000 shillings. //Cue in: iAt first we were paying #i Cue out: i# we are renting.i// Among the large charcoal vending population, traders said the fees are ridiculous and unjustified. They intimated that when a sack of charcoal is positioned upright, they are only charged 500 shillings. However when it is placed horizontally on the ground, the price goes up to 3,000 shillings. The second hand clothes sellers said they are bitter that despite the taxes paid, the area in which they operate has never been worked on. They were forced to build their own stalls and organize their section by themselves. With the rise in taxes have also come new rules. The market is closed earlier than the usual time of 7:00PM. In the extension place of the market, they are only permitted to work up to 8:30 PM, one hour less than the time they were used to. The Masindi Town Clerk, Daudi Chwa, was for much of today locked in meetings with the market leaders. He says that after negotiations it was resolved that some of the taxes should be temporarily waived pending further discussion by the council. //Cue in: iWe also reviewed #i Cue out: i# course of action.i// It was been resolved that rent for food restaurants in the market be reduced from 20,000 to 10,000/ shillings. Business at the market resumed later hthis afternoon. Recently, Masindi town council passed a budget of over five billion shillings, most of which is expected to come from local revenue.