Kampala special hire drivers are becoming more wary of new clients as attacks targeting their vehicles increase. The drivers have adopted new screening measures like interviewing clients before taking them on.
Kampala special hire operators and drivers are adopting more security conscious measures to safeguard their lives and trade.
This follows numerous incidents of special hire operators losing lives to attackers while at the wheel while others have gone missing with their vehicles and never been heard from again.
Abdul Male, the chairperson of Kampala Special Hire Operators and Drivers Association, tells Uganda Radio Network that they advise their members to always be on the alert. One of the new security measures involves interviewing potential clients on their knowledge of their destinations.
Others include charging higher fares to new face clients, and limiting operation hours and routes for new clients whom the drivers are not familiar with.
According to Male, where the drivers become suspicious of their clients they are advised to abandon them and inform their colleagues through the phone messages and beeps. He says a beep from a colleague when talking to a potential client is a warning of danger, and usually that client is dropped.
Earlier in March, Mpimbaza Hashaka, the Kampala Resident Commissioner held a meeting with special hire drivers tipping them on similar security measures to safeguard their trade. He advised the operators to always alert their colleagues on where they are heading on getting clients from their stage.
Haji Sadi Zuwa, a special hire driver along Tourist Hotel in Nakasero, shares his experience. He says, three months ago, he lost a car to thieves who posed as clients and asked him to transport them from Nakasero to Entebbe airport.
He explains on a Monday morning one person stepped out of a nearby shop, and requested to be taken to Rubaga Road. When they reached Clock Tower, he asked to be taken Entebbe airport, to pick a visitor.
He says along the way they picked another person, whom the first passenger claimed was his brother.
On reaching Entebbe, airport, they jumped out of the car, and after 20 minutes they came back to the car and said they had been told the flight on which the person they had gone to pick would delay for another 4 hours.
In the process of waiting, they decided drive to Kitoro trading centre, but once in Kitoro, they changed the plan and asked to be driven to the Uganda Wild Life Centre (Zoo).
He says when they reached the Wild life Centre they entered a shop outlet spent some time and came back with cans of Splash juice which they offered to the driver.
Zuwa says that when he next came to his senses, it was to find that he had been admitted at Nsambya Hospital.
Many special hire drivers have had similar experiences.
Godfrey Ssebunya and Lameka Lubega, who are based at the Luwuum street special hire stage, say they are very cautious when choosing their clients.
"Brigadier" Kamya, a special hire driver based in Kawempe, is so security conscious that he will not take on new clients past 6pm. He says he actually stops work at 8:00pm.