Kampala City Traders Association (KACITA), the umbrella body for city traders, has asked court to order landlords to stop demanding rent from their members for the three-month lockdown period imposed by the Government.
KACITA wants court to issue a declaration that their members are not liable to pay utility bills for the premises they occupy on the landlords` buildings for the period during the lockdown.
The traders also want the court to issue an order prohibiting the landlords from evicting the tenants on account of failure to pay the rent.
The suit was filed on June 4, by Ortus Advocates at the Civil Division High Court. It was brought against 14 arcade owners.
KACITA wants court to issue a declaration that the performance of the obligations of their members under the tenancy agreements executed with the landlords temporarily frustrated by the restrictions imposed under the public health(Control of COVID-19) (No.2) Rules, 2020.
Those sued include Crane Management Services, Ntake Bakery Ltd, Apple Properties, Godfrey Kyeswa, Aponye House Limited, James Mugabi, Drake Lubega, Ham Kiggundu, Matovu Younger, Christine Nabukeera, Daudi Mutebi, Joseph Yebaza, Haji Muhammed Zziwa and Tom Kitandwe.
KACITA says the 14 are owners of various arcades and shopping malls and are sued in the members.
Ronald Tusingwire, a lawyer from Ortus Advocates, said some of the landlords had already been served with the suit papers.
KACITA described themselves as a company incorporated in accordance with the laws of Uganda and as a company limited whose main objective is” bringing together members of the business community in social development”.
Kacita wants a declaration that the tenants are not liable to pay rent for the premises they occupy for the period of lockdown on account of the landlords having failed to provide the rental space during the lockdown.
Godfrey Kirumira, the chairperson of Kampala Arcade and mall owners, yesterday rubbished the suit and questioned the rationale of KACITA dragging its own members to court.
He said he was not aware of the suit, but that they had engaged trade Minister Amelia Kyambadde in a discussion over the rent matter and it had been agreed that it should be rescheduled.
“We met the minister and she gave us tough guidelines, which we must adhere to before the arcades can be re-opened.
There is no way KACITA can accept us to waive off rent.
This pandemic was something beyond what we all expected,” Kirumira noted.
KACITA argues that sometime in December last year Covid-19 broke out in Wuhan, China and later spread throughout the world.
KACITA says on March 17, the Ministry of Health (MOH) issued the Public Health (Notification of Covid-19) order, 2020 Schools and bars were closed and public gatherings and sports activities throughout the country prohibited.
The suit states that on March 30, President Yoweri Museveni issued directives, which, among others, led to the closure of all arcades and shopping malls in the country, for 14 days.
“The health ministry subsequently issued the Public Health (control of COVID-19) (No.2) Rules, 2020 to give legal effect to the directives issued by the President.
These rules made impossible for the members of KACITA and other traders operating from shopping malls and arcades owned by the defendants to access and do any business from the rented spaces,” the plaint reads.
They noted that the guidelines were compulsory and strictly enforced by the agents of government, trough the Police, the Local Defence Units and other security agencies, in that failure led one to be imprisoned.
KACITA says its members and other traders operating from the shopping malls and arcades, including those owned by landlords have not been running any business and are unable to raise income to pay rent due to them. They also note that the landlords were directed to close their arcades and shopping malls, making it impossible for them to avail premises to tenants to trade.
KACITA noted that despite the temporary frustration as a result of the above acts, landlords of arcades and shopping malls are demanding payment of rent for the duration of temporary frustration and threatening to evict their members if they fail to comply with the demand.
KACITA says on March 7, they wrote to the National Task Force for the fight against COVID-19 and to the office of the Prime Minister about the accrued rent and interest on loans for the lockdown period.
But to date, KACITA has not received a reply from the office Of the Prime Minister, neither has any action been taken to address the issue.
Between the lines
KACITA says the 14 are owners of various arcades and shopping malls and are sued in the capacity of landlords of its members.