Tension is mounting among casual laborers employed by Kampala Capital City Authority-KCCA. This follows a decision by 7 Hills, which is volunteering with KCCA to recruit workers for the same jobs held by casual laborers.
One of the workers who chose to identify himself as Mzee told URN that he is uncertain whether he will have a job at the end of the month. The 56-year-old Mzee who has been employed by KCCA in different positions as a gardener, sweeper and garbage loader for the last 15 years is worried that he will not be able to look after his family.
He has two wives and more than 10 children, who depend on his monthly income of Shillings 260,000. Mzee tells URN that his worries begun early this year when a group of unidentified people appeared on the streets and begun doing the same work as them.
According to Mzee, the group did not identify itself and one knew who they were. He says that the group comprising young energetic men desilted drainage channels in the five-division of Kampala before expanding their scope of work to include sweeping and loading garbage.
Mzee, who was scared of talking to URN for fear of reprisal from the youth under 7-Hills works under one of the five-division community SACCOs in Kampala. Each division has a Community SACCOs started in 2014 on the advice of the then Executive Director of KCCA Jennifer Musisi. At the time, the casual labourers were put in SACCOs at the division level to recruit vulnerable people in the locality for employment.
The authority planned to deal with the SACCOs and not individual labourers. According to one of the managers of one of the SACCOs, they first received a two years contract in 2016 to provide cleaning, landscaping and engineering services.
Although the contract expired in 2018, they continued to work with KCCA paying their salaries directly to the workers’ bank accounts. In January 2020, they were issued an 18 months contract, which expired in June 2021. A contract extension of two and a half months running from 1st July 2021 to 15th September 2021 was then issued.
But still holding their contract, in March 2021, Seven Hills, said to be a volunteer group consisting of former criminal gang members surfaced offering the same services. From about 200 members, the group has since grown, recruiting over 800 members including other members of society not from criminal gangs.
Mzee is not the only person who feels his job is threatened by the newcomers. Umar Kato, who has been working with KCCA for more than 10 years as a scout, says that his job is threatened by the new group that does their work and talks to them of how determined they are to take up the job.
Kato is worried for the more vulnerable people whose jobs are on the line too. KCCA casual workers were recruited following a reservation scheme where jobs were given to vulnerable people including elderly women, people living with HIV and single mothers. One of such people is Kato’s mother in her 50s who lives with HIV AIDS and runs a family of more than five people including the children of her late daughter.
Another person in fear of losing her job is 53-year-old Harriet Kizza, a single mother who has been working with KCCA for more than 10 years desilting drainages. With a family of eight people, she is afraid she won’t have a source of income by the end of this month.
On top of this job insecurity, the workers also accuse members of 7 Hills of provoking them into fights and sometimes blatantly beating up KCCA labourers from the SACCOs.
Every morning from Monday to Saturday, members of 7 Hills converge at different points and are deployed by their supervisors at different roads to sweep and desilt drainages. However, as they carry out these duties, some of the 7 Hills staff also threaten and assault the SACCO labourers. Mzee says when 7 Hills members find SACCOs members in the field they beat them up to chase them off the road.
The workers have videos showing 7 Hills members beating them and pushing some into drainage channels. The perpetrators are normally shuttled on a KCCA pick-up truck used by one of the supervisors of KCCA Casual workers, Sanura Naggayi to go pick up fights with the SACCOs workers.
Naggayi, who has been the supervisor of the casual labourers, says that the SACCOs failed to clean the City leaving dirty streets and clogged drainage channels. She says seven Hills approached her in January 2021 asking volunteer and she obliged. To her, the group is doing a tremendous job.
Although Naggayi says she works with the Community SACCOs’ and not 7 Hills, she closely deals with the 7 Hills group and works with the group’s supervisors to make deployments among other directives. She openly urges job seekers and current KCCA casual labourers organised under SACCOs to register with 7 Hills. She wants KCCA to give the next contract to the new team she says has proven to be effective.
Naggayi dismissed the accusations of commanding goons under 7 Hills to beat KCCA casual workers on the streets as false. This is despite the fact that the car she moves in has been pictured ferrying 7 Hills members who pick up fights with KCCA casual labourers.
KCCA Spokesperson Daniel NuweAbine says 7 Hills is a group of volunteers who came to help KCCA clean the City. He says they have not received any reports of fights but said the authority would investigate the matter. NuweAbine also says a bidding process is underway to get a contractor to provide sanitation services.