The High Court in Kampala has overturned the ministerial ban on reflexology centres put in place more than two years ago. In March 2011, the then Minister of Health Dr Stephen Mallinga, banned reflexology centres from operating and advertising their activities in the country. Justice Godfrey Kiryabwire, the head of the Commercial Court of Uganda, on Thursday ruled that the decision to ban reflexologists was made in error, and ordered the ministry to cater for the court costs in the case.
In March 2011, the then Minister of Health Dr Stephen Malinga, banned reflexology centres from operating and advertising their activities in the country. Malinga, who later that year moved from Health to become Relief and Disaster Preparedness Minister, died of heart failure two weeks ago.
While suspending reflexology centres, Dr Malinga claimed the operators lacked training, and were referring to themselves as doctors which, according to him, was misleading to the public. The late minister also directed then Kampala City Council and other urban authorities to stop the licensing of reflexology clinics and ordered the law enforcement agencies to take appropriate action.
Goodrich Muteguya, the chairperson of United Reflexology Association of Uganda and others petitioned the High Court challenging the ban. Through Kavuma Kabenge and Company Advocates, the petitioners argued that the minister acted arbitrarily in banning their business without consulting the reflexology operators to assess their capacity and training.
On Thursday while delivering his ruling, Justice Godfrey Kiryabwire, the head of the Commercial Court of Uganda, said the decision to ban reflexologists was made in error, and ordered the ministry to cater for the court costs in the case.
He ruled that while the minister has the powers to protect public interest, he has to take decisions that comply with the laws of natural justice by catering for the right to a fair hearing.
He says prior to the ban there was no evidence produced in court indicating that the Ministry of Health contacted the reflexologists and accorded them a fair hearing before they were banned.
Justice Kiryabwire however noted that there are no laws regulating the operations of reflexologists in the country and called upon government to consider speeding up the process of regulating the work of reflexology centres.
The judge noted that even the Public Health Act and the Nurses and Midwives Act do not cover reflexology.
Shortly after the ruling Muteguya said the abrupt ban of their activities has affected their means of survival, adding that the next move is to consider petitioning court to force the ministry to compensate the practitioners for the two years they spent without working.
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In September 2012, when Uganda Radio Network carried out a min survey on how the reflexology operators were surviving after the ban, it was established that they were operating under cover for fear of arrest.