The Observer (Kampala)

5 January 2014

Uganda: Lukwago Is Politically Dead - RCC Hashaka

interview

Samuel Mpimbaza Hashaka, is the Kampala resident city commissioner (RCC), who often calls himself the president of Kampala by virtue of his office.

Hashaka has been actively campaigning against Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago, and is accused of having led to the suspension of popular radio presenter Basajja Mivule.

A former journalist who made his name on Radio One, Hashaka spoke to Deo Walusimbi about his work as RCC, the politics of Kampala, and how Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi is trying to flog a dead horse. Excerpts:

How have you found your RCC role?

Well, I can say that the role is interesting on the one hand, and challenging on the other. I say it is interesting because I interact with the common people and in interacting with them, I realise that they have too many problems.

Right now you can see that the place is full of people with problems, waiting for help and I always leave office very late in the night because when I handle a person's problem, I want to conclusively deal with it.

It is also interesting that I get overwhelming turnout. I am now handling matters from other parts of the country because I have realized that some of these offices upcountry are not working in helping the people

Sounds like you have quite a challenge...

It is challenging because you step on so many peoples' toes. We have so many powerful [rich] people who are most of the time trampling on people's rights and they make sure that they use money to cut off all the avenues that would have helped them.

But because I don't fear anybody apart from God and maybe the president who is the appointing authority whom I can't tackle, I can tackle all. But what's challenging is that I get some resistance calls from some government officials and on a number of occasions, it is coupled with blackmail.

The other challenge is a lot of corruption in this city. You can find out that all the other offices ask for money before assisting people with problems and it is this office (mine) where people don't pay money to be helped. When you try to handle those problems, you will get resistance from some offices, saying that you are a wiseacre, failing them to make their money from the people, but I have tried my best.

It sounds as if you are the only person working in Kampala; don't you feel overstretched?

I do feel overstretched because for me, I don't go for leave since 2001 when I began the RDCship profession. When you go for leave, you leave a gap and by the time you finish it, you will find a lot of people with many unresolved problems. So, I feel that there is no reason for me to go on leave when people are suffering.

That means you must be handsomely paid...

The problem I find is the issue of facilitation because these offices of the RDCs do a lot of work and they are not facilitated. You find out that other people, whom I supervise in KCCA, are getting more money than I do. Some of them get as much as Shs 15, 20, 30 millions ...

Who are those?

I mean the directors; even the councillors earn over Shs 5 million on a monthly basis; at times they go up to seven million when there is sitting. But for me, I end up earning Shs 1.5m per month and this is a very big discrepancy.

I cannot say that that is little money, but depending on the kind of work I do, if the money was increased, it would be good and if you compare our work with that of MPs, we do more work than [them], because they work from Tuesday to Thursday and it is optional for them to go to these committees, which is not the case for us.

By virtue of being the RCC, you are the head of security in the city. In May, you vowed to ban cars with tinted glasses; how far have you gone with this?

We have held meetings with the inspector general of police [IGP] and security chiefs in this city and they were supposed to implement my directive to ban the use of tinted-cars. But what we are doing is that we are studying the law so that we can do it in a better way that won't lead us into problems but it is on.

Very soon the IGP is coming up with a directive and we shall see tinted cars out of this city because we discovered that all the insecurity we have emanates from these tinted cars.

Two and half years since you became RCC, what have you achieved?

There have been many achievements but the main one is creating more awareness about government programmes like Naads.

Then, I have embarked on the issue of sensitising people to join Saccos [savings and credit cooperatives]. Another great achievement is that we have normality in the city and the confusion is no longer there politically. Like in the lord mayor's office, we have been having a very big challenge with him because he is supposed to call meetings every three months but he was not doing it; he has been creating confusion.

What do you see as the root-cause of these squabbles at KCCA?

The actual cause was the former lord mayor Lukwago because we found out that he deliberately didn't want to see any government programmes implemented. That is why he was concentrating on negative politicking. For the two and half years he has been the lord mayor, he has never gone out to the public to talk about government programmes.

But on the other hand, the executive director tried her best to make sure that she pleased [Lukwago], like making sure that she allocates Shs 1bn, he wanted as money to be used to travel abroad, she bought him a vehicle of Shs 300m, but I am happy that he is out of the way now, and things are moving as they are supposed to.

You had a hand in the process of removing Lukwago; are you satisfied with what transpired?

I can't say that I had a hand; I only acted according to the law and I made sure that the KCCA Act is respected and the law takes its course. For instance, when the lord councillors had petitioned, they came under threat and some of them abandoned their homes.

So, I made sure that they get security for them to stay in their offices and also be able to express their will and according to the law. And I can say that I am happy that he is finally out of office.

But court said he was not legally removed...

Lukwago is no longer the lord mayor and I want people to realize the truth because it is like death. When it has occurred, you cannot reverse it, so is Lukwago's death politically; he can't be resurrected.

We saw his rise and fall as the lord mayor because we went through a process according to the KCCA Act. And this can serve as a warning to all of us leaders, that when you have the position, you need to serve the people. If you don't do your work, you can be kicked out.

I have been telling people that an example is me. I am so powerful in this city because I represent the president and central government... but I can be removed by one sentence unlike Lukwago who went despite three stages of the process that took him. So can the executive director who has made Lukwago cry like a baby throughout his tenure and the minister in charge of Kampala; we can all go by one sentence.

Some people have a thinking that maybe he is still the lord mayor; he is not.

Why did you block people from the Lukwago camp from serving you with a court order halting the impeachment process?

If you don't know mafias, it is the Lukwago camp; his camp is full of mafias and conmen. Somebody will come to you and tell you that this is a good deal when he has sold you fake gold. So, these people are good at telling lies; they are good at forging things.

By 8am, I was there [when] councillor Ssewanyana claimed he had got a court order on a Monday morning! Yet we know courts in Uganda start operating at 9am and there are fees you are supposed to pay in a bank. Which bank opens at 7am?

So, I don't know why people don't use that commonsense to know that if [councillor] Ssewanyana had something, that was fake. Council began at 9am and ended at 9:30am and at 10am is when the real court order came in when the decision had been taken.

Ssewanyana was buying time as the real court order was coming because they are conmen and mafias but; is he a court server?

He [Lukwago] is insisting that he is still the lord mayor

That is wishful thinking and I want to appeal to him to come back to his senses to know that he is no longer the lord mayor. If he wants to be the lord mayor again, he can, maybe, wait for elections. If people want, they can decide to bring him back.

So, we neither have the lord mayor nor the deputy lord mayor; what is the fate of the operations of KCCA?

The political wing is still there because we still have the lord Councillors, it is unfortunate that he didn't even appoint the deputy lord mayor; otherwise, [Sulaiman] Kidandala would have been the acting lord mayor but he didn't even fight for his rights to complete the process; that is why he doesn't earn a salary.

Otherwise, what we are doing today, the minister in charge of Kampala is the political head of the city, and Councillors are there to assist him; then the technical wing also does its work as we wait for guidance from the attorney general.

If we could survive for two and half years without Lukwago doing his work, how about now when he is out of the way and we don't have his confusion?

But there have been negotiations between Prime Minister Mbabazi and opposition to amicably resolve the impasse...

Well, I don't have any problem with him being re-instated but what is being done is like flogging a dead horse; it is like trying to resurrect a dead person; it is not possible.

So, Mbabazi is trying to resurrect a dead person?

Yes because the law took its course. Nobody is above the law in this country; do you remember the time when Lukyamuzi tried to impeach Museveni? If it had been done, Museveni wouldn't be the president today.

And for your information, even the president doesn't have power to reinstate Lukwago because he is not above the law unless they want to do it illegally. I would be happy if Lukwago came back but as somebody who has repented and through an election.

But why would Minister Tumwebaze, ED Musisi and you, who are appointees of the president insist on suffocating elected leaders in Kampala like Lukwago when you personally contested in 2001 and lost to your opposition opponent in Kawempe North?

It is true that the minister is a political appointee and the ED, but it is not true that they have suffocated Lukwago. He has suffocated himself by failing to perform because the law is clear. Everybody has a way he can go when he doesn't perform.

Some people see you as intolerant... For instance, why did you suspend Magie Kayima's concert?

I intervened and put things right and my intervention saw this concert take place. So, it is not true that I am intolerant; that is why the ban on that show was lifted.

Then you write to media houses complaining about presenters because they hosted Lukwago...

As you know, I was an active journalist for about 13 years and I was one of the journalists who advocated for professionalism, because I realised that our profession was being taken over by mediocre people.

I am one of those who started the struggle to clean our house and some people saw it badly but today, journalists are respected because of that struggle. It is unfortunate that some people have not respected my role, but it is a few.

Are you now happy that Basajja Mivule is no longer presenting his show on Akaboozi radio?

I did not play any part in Mivule's issues because what happened in this case was a fact that some people had started to act unprofessionally. Like you came here and saw how I am advising people with problems; so, I am not happy that he was [suspended from his show].

But you wrote complaining about him...

I just wrote to advise the management of Radio One and Radio Two because I realized that there was too much unprofessionalism. Actually when I wrote the letter, I didn't direct it to Mr Mivule; I wrote to the managers, I don't know whether the management is Mr Mivule; and I never mentioned him in my letter and I have never asked for his sacking.

It had really become too much. For about six months, continuously, [they] brought in members of the opposition to abuse the government, calling for the removal of the government. And before writing the letter, I had talked to the mangers of that radio asking for the same in vain. But I have never stopped them from hosting people from the opposition. I advised them that if they are to host the opposition, let them balance it with a government official.

But journalists complain that it is hard to get a government official keen and ready to speak about its programmes.

No way; the officials are there. If they are scarce, why don't they look for me? And if you didn't know, one of my roles is to talk about the government programmes and I am available. People have their selfish interests.

During the Kasokoso saga, they continuously hosted people who were against the project but when we bought airtime on Radio One's Spectrum to give our side because they had refused to host us, it was embarrassing that they invited someone negative to frustrate the programme.

But you did not complain whenever Mivule hosted you, and you bashed the opposition.

I thank him for that, and that shows that I didn't call for his sacking. And I think the management should tell you why he is no longer on air.

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