James Mulwana's death mirrors a huge loss to business, to entrepreneurship, family and the country.
The calm and sombre mood that engulfed his home in Kansanga today and the outpouring of national grief captured the sense of loss only too well. Mulwana in life requested for a quick burial with no fanfare, upon his death. The green well-manicured gardens remained quiet, with mourners speaking in low tones. The sound of the wind sweeping through the trees that dotted the compound could well be heard over the small talk.
At about 11am, his wife Sarah Mulwana stepped out of the house. She struggled to fight back tears as relatives and friends rushed to console her. She struggled to remain strong. But she could not hide the pain on her face. Occasionally she would murmur his name 'James' when another mourner walked in sobbing. At one point she collapsed into the hands of relatives only to collect herself and sit still. Her children Primrose, Barbara and Jeffery stayed locked up in the house.
Only on Sunday, her husband had been well and went to Mityana to attend a prayer service. When he left Mityana, he drove straight to his Jesa Farm Diary in Busunju on Hoima road. But when he got stomach pains, he drove back to his home in Kansanga. On Monday, his wife took him to Kampala hospital where a series of tests and scans were carried out.
Dr Adam Kimala Nsubuga, of Kampala hospital, says that when the pain intensified, Mulwana was taken to Nakasero hospital where he was treated. When the situation got worse, he was put on oxygen to support his breathing but unfortunately he died at 3am on Tuesday morning. The cause of death is not yet known. His body was then transported to Case Medical Centre at 6:30am on Buganda road for preservation.
By 7.30am, no relative or friend had arrived at the hospital. Dr Kimala arrived to identify the body and make a formal communication that Mulwana was indeed dead.
Mulwana's wish was to be buried quickly, the Muslim way. In fact he had wished that if he dies at night, he be buried the next day.
"The people of the Kingdom of Thailand requested that we wait until Saturday but we cannot go against his wish... But his wish was to be taken from hospital straight to Masiriba, his burial grounds. He wanted to be buried immediately so that his people remain strong and continue with work. We can only push until tomorrow [Wednesday]," Dr Kimala said.
"He was a very hardworking man; Buganda kingdom has lost a very important person. The Kabaka is deeply saddened by his death because Mulwana contributed immensely to Buganda," Dr Kimala told The Observer at Case Clinic.
Meanwhile, the business community was today mourning the passing of a modern-day era private sector legend. At a press conference, Standard Chartered bank, where Mulwana was a non-executive chairman, spoke about a hardworking industrialist who helped the bank to grow.
Service at home
Because Mulwana's body would not be taken to his home for a vigil, a small prayer service, led by the Vicar of All Saints cathedral, Diana Mirembe Nkesiga, was held in front of his modest house. Gordon Wavamunno also chaired a small meeting to make burial arrangements. It was joined by Roofings Ltd Chairman Sikander Lalani and former Kampala Mayoral aspirant John Ssenseko Kulubya.
During her eulogy, Nkesiga said Mulwana had a particular spot he occupied in church every Sunday.
"He was greater than an investor. He invested in the church and the life of his family. James and Sarah have served the Lord and we have hope that he is with God," Nkesiga told mourners.
Sheikh Kasule Ndirangwa remembers Mulwana as a calm and patient man who never discriminated against anyone based on religion, tribe, political affiliation or social status.
"He would occasionally ring me to find out how I was doing, we regret his death...," Ndirangwa, who represented Muslims said.
But it was Bidandi Ssali's eulogy that left many in tears. Bidandi himself could not hide his emotions at the loss of a close friend. As he spoke, he paused every other time to catch his breath and fight back tears.
"I was told at 6:am that Mulwana was admitted in hospital and he was ill. I had to take some medicine to calm down. I think they were preparing me for the bad news. It is sad I did not get the chance to care for him the way he has cared for me," said Bidandi, who was struggling to talk,. He said because of his ill health, he was advised to stay in bed and not strain himself but he couldn't help himself.
"I am standing here today because Mulwana saved my life. When they announced that I was dead, Mulwana came to IHK in Namuwongo. He and his wife took me to Bangkok and took care of me. He flew back and forth to care for me while there," Bidandi, who at this point became teary, said.
The two have been close for over fifty years. Bidandi says when he was minister for local government, he appointed Mulwana as the Mayor of Kampala but he turned the offer down because he was not interested in politics.
"I was with him eight days ago. I told him that there is a machine that has brought me some life," he recalled,
"Bidandi, my journey is short," Mulwana is reported to have responded, a matter that scared Bidandi.
"I had never heard him say something like that. Anyone who knows Mulwana should be grateful to God, we should not just mourn him but learn from him," Bidandi said.
The 76-year-old Mulwana will be buried today at his ancestral home in Masiriba, on Hoima road.