President Yoweri Museveni has issued a raft of policy guidelines ever since Corona Virus was detected in Uganda and a national lockdown declared.
Most of the time, citizens have felt inconvenienced for instance by staying at home, walking to work, no socialization etc. But in most of these instances, Ugandans have kept calm and religiously obeyed the Presidential directives.
The issue of tenants not paying rent has however continued to generate heated debate – and this is understandable.
Everybody and I mean everybody has been negatively impacted by this Corona epidemic. Even civil servants who continued working are affected because there are no more travels, no more workshops etc. And these are areas where they earn extra income.
So there are two broad categories of premises for rent.
The first being business premises where we have the likes of arcades, Malls and Supermarkets. The second category is residential.
The President’s directive, I believe was informed by the traders’ cry especially those who operate from Arcades and Malls. The Land lords were demanding rent yet these traders were locked up in their homes. They were doing no business, so it was only logical for the President to direct that issues of such nature wait until the traders go back to work – and I think this issue has been addressed.
The second category of residential rent has not been addressed by the President and like the boda bodas who have started taking to the streets, these small Landlords will do the same soon.
I want the President to stop thinking of the big landlords but these small people who are probably earning less than Shs1Million from their houses. Some of them are widows whose only source of income is that rent. They use that money for food, clothing, treatment and education.
Some of these so called Landlords are actually complete orphans and unemployed or still at school. They have tenants who have now gone back to work since the bigger percentage of the economy has been opened up. At least everybody in town can find something to do including the worse scenario cases like Private school teachers, night club workers and generally the entertainment industry.
Yet the President still says don’t chase away tenants.
Mr. President what is happening is that tenants are able to have two meals a day and eat as their Landlords yawn. Do you think such a scenario is sustainable?
Remember also that most of these small landlords live together with their tenants; they know how they feed, dress, drink and socialize. They therefore know when their tenants are struggling and when they are doing well. Yet most of these tenants even when they are in position to pay rent are adamantly refusing saying the President stopped them from paying rent!
This is creating an atmosphere of animosity between families that have hitherto been living in harmony. Landlords’ wives are accusing their husbands of have extramarital affairs with their female tenants because they cannot comprehend how such tenants are living freely in their houses without paying rent!
And Mr. President if there are people who are sincerely unable to eke a living even after you have opened the economy, then advise these category of people to go back to their rural homes.
Otherwise the small Land lords are one of the most disadvantaged economic groups in Uganda today. And if you are advising the Landlords to find other sources of income, then naturally the same advice applies to the tenants who are not paying.
Finally even when the Landlords become patient until the shutdown is lifted, what guarantee is there that these tenants will not run away with accumulated rent arrears?
For the President to say and I quote;
“Landlords trying to evict people during this period because of rent should not be allowed. They are trying to profit from a world crisis. This shutdown is for a limited time. You can demand your money when this is over,” he said.
The reality now is that tenants who have resumed work are the ones profiting from a world crisis and unguided presidential proclamations.