The Ugandan government on Monday indicated that shopping arcades and malls in Kampala can start operating on Tuesday so long as they fulfil recommended operating procedures as the country moves to partially relax Covid-19 restrictions imposed on June 18.
But in a departure from practice, the vetting of traders and buildings eligible to operate will be conducted by, among others, operatives from the Internal Security Organisation (ISO) and the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI), which is the Ugandan army's spy unit.
The new declaration was made by Minsa Kabanda, the Minister for Kampala Affairs, and signals a turn by authorities that had set August 7 as the earliest date to reopen business premises after President Yoweri Museveni shut arcades and malls when he imposed a nationwide 42-day lockdown in June.
That lockdown, the second imposed by government after surging Covid-19 cases, ended last Thursday when President Museveni reopened the country under strict rules.
In the Friday address, he allowed malls and arcades to operate, alongside many other prevented activities, subject to guidelines by the ministries of Health and that of Kampala Capital City Authority and Metropolitan Affairs.
A number of landlords sought immediate reopening of the business premises while others asked for at least three-day lead time to enable them fulfil the government-set compliance requirements.
“So, my team is ready to open the arcades in a phased manner. The President gave the directives on the arcade openings. So, whoever fulfils his (Museveni’s) guidelines should call my team for inspection, starting (today),” Ms Kabanda said.
Kampala Resident City Commissioner (RCC) Hudu Hussein, who doubles as the security head in the capital, named spies among State operatives to vet the traders and monitor compliance.
“Police, ISO, CMI, Health Monitoring Uganda, Kampala Capital City Authority, officials from the Ministry of Trade, and officials from the Ministry of Health are the ones leading the compliance team,” he said.
The RCC did not explain why secret State operatives were being drafted in the vetting of businesses.
Traders, however, were opposed to some of the guidelines for reopening, including installation of CCTV cameras. They said these were unnecessary and unrelated to Covid-19 spread.
For instance, two Kampala businessmen, Mr Kalungi Kirumira and Mr Hamis Kiggundu, were vocal in opposing the CCTV requirement as a means to stem spread of the virus which has so far infected more than 90,000 and killed over 2,000 since the first case was reported in Uganda in March 2020.
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Report by Benson Tumusiime