Hundreds of traders in downtown Kampala have refused to open their shops protesting an arbitrary increment in their rent.

The traders, who rent shops on Zibulatudde Shopping Mall on Channel Street, near Owino Market turned up this morning but refused to open their shops until they meet the mall’s management.

The strike was sparked off after the mall management on July 20 wrote to all the tenants announcing an increment of 500,000 Shillings on top of the 3,000,000 Shillings they have been paying.

The management ordered the traders to pay up 3,500,000 Shillings at the end of July, failure of which will initially attract a 10 percent penalty. It was communicated that if one fails to pay then the tenancy will be terminated.

The traders are also unhappy with many other charges that are cumulatively weighing them down. The charges include 20,000 Shillings for garbage, 30,000 Shillings per light bulb, 300 Shillings for toilet use, and 300 Shillings for five liters of water.

Grace Nantege, an affected tenant, says the mall management is inconsiderate about the plight of traders, adding that they are tired.

All the shops in the mall have not been opened with the traders standing around in groups discussing the stand-off. Some of the traders are brandishing placards protesting the rent increment.

The Secretary-General of Uganda Tenants and Squatters’ Association, Zaid Mukasa, is on hand to lend support to the striking traders, believed to be in their hundreds – both tenants and those who rent spaces from the tenants.

Mukasa says the management of Zibulatudde Shopping Mall is unfair to the traders.

We could not reach the landlord for comments. However, the mall manager, Ronald Kalema said he wasn’t in the mood to talk to the media. He could be seen frantically making calls.

According to Mukasa, the arbitrary increment in rent by landlords is symptomatic of the ineffectiveness of government policy on rent and business.

Mukasa says the government should look into business rent, including charging in dollars by some landlords.