New Vision (Kampala)

19 February 2013

Uganda: 'Umeme, Your Work Is Rubbish'

opinion

People, even strangers, have accosted me on the streets. They have stopped short of grabbing me by my coat lapels, true; but their tones have been uniformly accusatory. "Why do you never say anything derogatory about this Umeme?"

I take their point, but always believed that the South African energy company which supplies our Electricity would see the light (pun intended!) and change its ways. That sentiment was bolstered when two or three months ago our Ministry of Energy announced that we would never again experience any power interruptions: known here as load-shedding!

I jumped up and down at this, and felt like putting an ad in the media asking all those who had assailed me to gather so that I could give them a little lecture, but something said, Wait! (Call it caution born of having been an inmate of this world of  ours for a great many years.) I waited -it saved me, in the end, from fried egg on my physiognomy!

Now I have joined those extreme doubters, and (why lie when there is truth?) with five words added: Umeme, your work is Rubbish! It is only proper I should detail my change of heart.

Most of us had read what the media reported as the contract giving the role of supplying Uganda's electricity to its final destination: be it home, offi ce, manufacturing points, including factories. It had little to do with producing the electricity, but everything to do with getting it where it had to go. But what seemed clear was that the contract was heavily drawn in Umeme's favour.

People wondered whether no other companies were interested in the contract. Many plainly smelt a rat, and feared the Ugandans had been got at! We will other times go into the details which most irked Ugandans. But with the high fees being paid Umeme, it was feared few of these were being translated into equipment for improving the services needed to make the power supply more effective than before.

Indeed many felt that we had sold our "family silver" (the local component, including knowledgeable local staff) for something less than we had been led to expect. Unable to believe we could have been sold such an obvious pup, many of us shivered and lived in hopes. How typical of Ugandans, and perhaps most Africans!

The stream has turned into a torrent. Every time it rains forcefully the system dies. Surely Umeme should have acquired necessary equipment to forestall this! When you ask exactly where the fault has occurred, the nice Ugandan force in the Enquiry Room will tell you they will send people to fi nd out.

Surely there exists machinery to automatically do this! The feeling from the longsuffering consumers now persists that all the money has been sent back to the South African headquarters! Why don't we return Top Manage- ment there as well?

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There is a heinous Law on our Statutes which deals with Undesirable Aliens. It could only have been started, and unfortunately left behind, by our Colonial Masters - the British, or even more particularly English! "Alien": you might think it alluded to Little Green Men from Mars, or other Planets. But here it refers only to Johnny Foreigner, on lower pedestal than just any Englishman: who never saw himself as a foreigner upon any inch of God's earth!

Anyway, Uganda, having annexed this particular law, gave it to the Internal Affairs Minister to decide which Undesirable Alien to deport from Uganda. What criterion he uses for this is his affair. We have seen problems caused by choosing one person to decide what happens in, for example, Oil! And true enough with Aliens an appeal can be made to Law Courts against the Minister's decision.

Last week the Minister saw it fit to deport an Alien, David Cecil. I must declare an interest. The young man is a friend of mine; more particularly I know members of his wider family well.

The head of the Cecil brood is the Marquess of Salisbury (Marquess being one down from Duke, and I don't refer to the newly-fangled "Duke" of Toro, husband to the King's sister!) One Marquess of Salisbury in the 19th Century turned down a dukedom saying he couldn't afford it (a big joke!); probably the British Prime Minister one.

In Queen Elizabeth I's reign, a Cecil was Lord of the Privy Seal, which later became called Prime Minister. This is the premier Tory family in Britain, and the Tories (Conservatives) are currently in power. Throwing out Cecil, unless for a very good reason, is not bright.

Doubtless Internal Affairs Minister Hillary Onek, knows nothing of this, nor cares. He studied in Russia, not a crime, but his knowledge of Britain must be scanty at best. And he is not oversubtle but capable of overexcitement, even publicly. Cecil was taken to Court for producing what some regarded as a Homosexual play: to me a silly thing by those who took him.

The British Parliament has just voted for Same-sex marriages. Onek didn't even wait for Cecil to be found guilty. He deported this man, who has a Toro wife and baby, out of her Uganda, which David also much loved. Hands up those who side with Onek, then crumble with shame!

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