HomeBUSINESSMbarara: City Councilors, Minister in contention over Fish mongers fee.

Mbarara: City Councilors, Minister in contention over Fish mongers fee.

Joshua Nahamya

Mbarara city mayor Robert Mugabe Kakyebezi has asked the fishmongers in Mbarara central market to pay the levied charges if they are to continue occupying kiosks in the modern market.

According to Kakyebezi, the vendors have defaulted over Shs 20 mln that was supposed to be collected as rental fees from fresh fish vendors operating in the newly developed Mbarara Central Market from September 2022.

The standoff between the two parties forced the minister for local government to make a locus visit to the market premises on 13th October 2023 over the rent fees issues.

After looking at the expenses these vendors spend to maintain the fish business, Hon Magyezi directed the city clerk Assy Abirebe Tumwesigyire to sit with the fish vendors and revise the rent fees affordable to be paid for the kiosks.

Some of the city councilors checking on rent fees on Wednesday. Joshua Nahamya

“Bwana town clerk, I direct you to go and sit with these people and conclude this matter. Look at where you feel they are inconvenienced and resolve this impulse, if it means reducing the rent fees please do because we want sanity in this market”  

However, in a council meeting held on Wednesday, Mayor Kakyebezi insisted that the vendors must pay the earlier agreed rent fees.

Kakyebezi said the utilities charged are favorable for fish mongers to afford not exaggerating to the minister like they complained.

“The highest consumption of water is Shs 10,556 and the lowest is Shs 1,320 per month. Then on electricity bill the highest payment is Shs 136,958 and the lowest is Shs 5,000 which is relatively low” Kakyebezi said

The executive committee headed by the mayor recommended that the city town clerk should go and enforce payments of rental fees as approved by the council.

He said the defaulted rent fees should be paid to mobilize the targeted local revenue to provide adequate social services and infrastructure development in the city.

“When the city is dirty they are the people who make the loudest noise, when the roads are impassable leaders can’t talk but when you ask for rent fees they run to the minister. This must stop town clerk go and implement because these fees were captured in our local revenue budget collection failure to pay it means our budget estimate will decline” Kakyebezi explained

Minister for local government Hon.Raphael-Magyezi

He added that reducing the rent fees will spark unnecessary fracas in the market because other vendors have been paying right from the day they occupied the new premises.

“Reducing rent for the fish vendors alone means the rest of the vendors will also not pay. Our stand is that the council has its resolution so town clerk, please go and enforce the payment” Kakyebezi said

The city town clerk Assy Abirebe asked the fishmongers to either pay or quit the market to avoid being exposed.

“We cannot continue recounting losses on them. Whoever wants to occupy the market should pay or else risk being forcefully whisked because the demand of those kiosks is high. We gave them grace period it expired, recently we issued an ultimatum and they challenged it to the minister’s office which has not yielded what is now remaining is to dispatch the enforcement team to implement and whoever does not comply will be evicted” Abirebe explained

On the other hand, the fishmongers have vowed not to pay the monthly Shs 100,000 rental fees, saying it is too high.

Some tenants insist they won’t go anywhere, with some saying they have occupied the market for over 20 years.

Abasa Nsengimana, who has occupied the central market since 1970, said he is not ready to fight back but will not quit the said government facility.

“If it means dying let them shoot me from here but I am not ready to quit this market because I don’t have anywhere else to do my business from. For the last 50 years in this market while getting the daily income for my family” he said

Nsegyimana said they can only afford to pay Shs 100,000 rent fees if the city council can afford to pay for the utilities they use like water and electricity.

“They should not be fed with lies, let them come to the market and find out how much we spend on these deep freezers and the water we use to clean our fish. If the council can meet the cost of these utilities then for us we have no problem. We can pay their rent, otherwise we can’t afford this business here.” He explained

Mbarara Central Market Association chairman, Emmanuel Muhumuza says he has no authority over rent fee collections. “My work is simple, to defend the vendors’ rights, micromanagement, go-between with council and lobbying, but issues to do with payments that are not my job”.

He encouraged the city council to implement the rent fees directive the way they did to any other vendor in the market.

“Actually it is causing mayhem because if the chairman can pay rent then who are the fish vendors that have spent almost a full year without paying?” Muhumuza asked

He said that some months ago vendors mobilised themselves to demonstrate but he told them not to strike.

“If the council fails to implement, we shall all reject the rent charges thinking that maybe the government constructed for us a free market to occupy and do our businesses,” Muhumuza said

Mbarara Central Market has a total of 485 lockups, stalls, and kiosks occupied by about 1000 vendors selling foodstuff, salons, restaurants, daycare, and banks among others.

The 21Bn Shillings regional market is among the presidential initiatives under the Markets and Agriculture Trade Improvement Project (MATIP) funded by a USD 84.2M (about 284b) loan supported by the African Development Bank (ADB) and USD 9.52M (about 32bln) contributed by the government to alleviate poverty and improvement of agricultural trade.

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