Taxicab co-operatives are crying foul over the decision by the City of Kigali (CoK) to de-gazette their workstations, allowing them to be used as parking slots by the general public.
Previously, cabs have been operating from ‘special’ roadside parking spaces under different co-operatives as required by the licensing body. However, the new decision by the city authority means that most of the workstations of cabs have been made public, while some others have been gazetted as no parking zones.
Deo Mazimpaka, the chairperson of the Union of Cabdrivers’ Co-operatives in Gasabo District and member of COTHOLA co-operative that works at Chez Lando Hotel area, said they were displaced from their working place mid-September.
“The cooperative has been working from this place for the past 15 years, but last month (September) the owner of nearby restaurant ordered us to leave the place even when our permit for the area is still valid.”
When contacted the proprietor, Medard Kubwimana, declined to comment, but said it is the City of Kigali which is mandated to manage parking spaces not cab co-operatives.
According to a copy of Kubwimana’s permit issued by the city authority in July, 2013, the firm is supposed to run a temporary take away restaurant and its patrons are not allowed to park by the roadside. The business is also supposed to have its own parking area for three vehicles inside its premises, the permit indicates.
Superintendent Jean Marie Vianney Ndushabandi, the traffic and road safety spokesperson, said; “It is our wish to provide exclusive taxi parking spaces, but the available space cannot allow that since the public members also need parking. That is why the parking spaces formerly run by co-operatives have been made public.”
City authority explains decision
Jean Claude Rurangwa, the city transport officer, told The New Times last week that their decision seeks to ensure that available parking spaces are shared by all to accommodate the increasing number of vehicles in Kigali.
“We have decided to open all roadside parking spaces to allow everyone to park their vehicles, but limited cabs to a certain number of slots ranging from one to 10 in each parking, depending on the width of the parking,” he explained. Rurangwa added that they are already putting up signposts in various parts of the city to guide the public.
He said the city authority is aware of the conflict between COTHOLA and Kubwimana, noting that limiting the parking around Chez Lando to only one cab is aimed at making it easy for people needing services at the many institutions in the area to get parking space. The area has banks and other service centres that are frequented by many people.
“We are also suspending some roadside parking spaces in busy places of the city to harmonise the traffic in Kigali. So, we cannot get enough space to accommodate all cabs in each co-operative because this means members of the public will not access parking space,” he argued.
Rurangwa said the city authority held a meeting last October to inform cabdrivers on the reforms. However, the Gasabo representative Mazimpaka said he was not informed about that meeting.
Cab co-operatives could collapse
The Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) requires each taxi operators’ co-operative to present a registered parking space permit before awarding them with an operating license, explained Mazimpaka. He wondered how the Chez Lando-based COTHOLA will get a licence extension early next year after they were evicted from their former workstation.
Mazimpaka’s counterparts in Nyarugenge and Kicukiro districts shared similar concerns, calling for supportive working conditions as is the case with taximotos and public buses, which are allocated parking spaces.
“These reforms were imposed on us in the last meeting...we expressed our concerns in vain. The reforms are going to lead to collapse of cab cooperatives...RURA should start giving operating licences to individual cabdrivers,” said Innocent Ndikuriyo, the chairperson of Kicukiro Union.
Xavier Munyaneza, the Nyarugenge District cab drivers co-op chairman, said the suspension of many parking places will affect their earnings. He called on the City of Kigali to find alternative parking spaces for them.
RURA speaks out
Emmanuel Asaba Katabarwa, the head of transport department at RURA, assured the cabdrivers they would get licences, explaining that RURA requires co-operatives to have an address, regardless of the number of parking slots.
“It doesn’t matter how many parking slots a co-operative has to be licensed. We only ask them to have an address even if one or two cabs are admitted at their parking address. A co-operative is not about the people working in one parking space, but the organisation which unites them to share benefits and challenges,” he argued.