By Bayan Nalubwama
After the president of Uganda declared the second phase of the state lockdown, almost all businesses in Kampala city were put on a stop except market vendors, street vendors and motorcyclists who operated under strict guidelines. Essential workers too were lucky, with their ID’s and stickers, they had all rights to movement.
Because ginger, lemon and garlic were medically advised to be taken in order to boost the body immune, their high demand led to the high increase of prices.
It was a good profit making moment for some farmers and vendors.
Those who dealt in food items like matooke, tomatoes, beans and cowpeas incurred losses because many people had food in store for the period they were home.
Walking through the streets of Kampala, I realized that a cup of fresh beans that used to cost shs 2000/= had lowered down to shs. 1000/=. A cup of cowpeas that used to cost shs. 4000/= before the lockdown had lowered down to shs.2000/= and shs 1500/=.
Some of the hair dressers who offered their services at gaza land started offering their services online. You either found them at their homes and vice versa.
Some started hawking their services. I found a young man moving door to door asking people if they needed to cut their eyebrows. Each eyebrow was shaped at a fee of shs.500/=
Prostitutes at Katonga road were on the streets by 9: am. They never moved even if it rained.
The first day I saw them very early, I thought they were street vendors chilling. I stated wondering why I every time I passed by, they were dressed and seated in a sexual provocative way not until two of the motorcyclists I asked told me their real identities and duties.
The people that stayed home were more involved in steaming than anything else.
The Uganda police was on duty as they were assigned by their boss. Unlike their behavior in the first phase of lockdown of 2020, this time, they were a bit lenient especially to motorcyclists. The many times I moved, it was people in private cars that were always told to pull over.
Motorcyclists had been allowed to move but on strict guidelines. They had been allowed to carry luggage and the vulnerable people like the sick with letters of evidence, pregnant mothers and many others. They used to carry people to and from town but it was rare to find a police officer telling a cyclist to stop over. They only had to answer to the law if they were unlucky and took jammed route, and when it was curfew time.
I remember one Sunday in Kansanga when a motorcyclist left a passenger at the hands of the lawmakers. The young Somali/Ethiopian passenger was unlucky when he was seen red handed getting off a motorcycle after seeing the police. He did not know that police had seen him too.
Unfortunately, motorcyclists were not as sweet to the passengers as the police was sweet to them. They knew people were home but still doubled the transport costs. A friend narrated to me how she had agreed with a cyclist to move her from Nansana to Namungona at a fee of shs. 3000/=. Because she did not know the cost up to “Kumasanyalaze” where she was going, she bordered. On reaching the destination, the man asked for shs. 8000/=. They disagreed on the fee until she gave him shs.7000/=.
Something of a sort also happened to me when I was heading home from the Uganda National Cultural Center (UNCC) to Nansana. It was raining and the motorcyclist who always moved me could not come pick me up. I decided to walk from UNCC to Serena hotel where I used to get a ride at a fee of shs. 5000/=.
It was not long when one came. We agreed that he brings me up to Northern Bypass as he was scared of police at Lubigi. I agreed because it was raining and it would only cost me shs.1000/= to get to my home stage from the famous Lubigi.
On our way, he asked how much I was willing to add so that to me home. I asked how much he wanted and he said shs.5000/=.
He got excited and when I told him I was willing to add shs. 1000/=. The man lost his cool and started abusing me. I told him to leave me at the first stage we had agreed upon. This is when I realized that he meant northern bypass of Bwaise. I asked him why he thought I would agree to be left at Bwaise when I was heading to Nansana and he continued with his verbal attacks. I had to be left at Bwaise where I got another cyclist who brought me at my home stage at shs. 2000/=.