Uganda: Yes, I Am Running for Lord Mayor - Dr Jose Chameleone

Award-winning singer Dr Jose Chameleone (real name Joseph Mayanja) is running for Lord Mayor position.
interview

The battle for the Kampala mayoral seat is projected to be one of the hottest, come 2021. While the current Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago is interested in retaining his seat, others such as Latif Ssebaggala, Abed Bwanika, Dan Kazibwe (aka Ragga Dee) and others are keenly eyeing the seat.

And now award-winning singer Dr Jose Chameleone (real name Joseph Mayanja) has thrown his hat into the ring. He said there was a wave of lawyers joining parliament, then journalists, and now it is only normal that many artistes are headed there. Last week, ending weeks of speculation, the Basiima Ogenze hit maker spoke to Carolyne Nakazibwe and Nicholas Bamulanzeki at DNA Lounge.

I will start with the elephant in the room; are you really standing for Kampala mayor?

Yes I am. I think it is my right to do that. As much as people have a right to vote, they also have a right to stand. So yes, I am.

And which ticket is Chameleone standing on?

Apparently if you observe, people are tired of the bickering in politics. Politics should be like religion; a Muslim should be able to sit harmoniously with a Catholic and a Catholic sits with an Anglican, and that is the environment I am trying to look at. Most people on particular tickets realise that the party they are standing for starts dictating the way they do their work.

I am coming as an independent, although I would love to associate myself with all the parties around. People of late have put themselves on pressure - I am FDC, I am NRM, I am People Power - which is not healthy for our country.

You have caused confusion with your recent actions. People are saying, Chameleone sang Tubonga Naawe for President Museveni in 2015/16. Chameleone was last week in Jinja with Democratic Party, wearing a People Power beret...

I understand, but when a leader visits a mosque, it doesn't make him Muslim... those are roles of a leader. You have to harmonise; you have to be available in all avenues. But going back to Tubonga Naawe, that was a job, just like someone would hire me to sing at their wedding or a daughter's party.

When I stage my shows at Lugogo, for example, I never segregate that I am now singing for FDC, or this is NRM; it is a job. Just like other companies hire me for gigs, that is how that thing happened. Just because I provided a service does not mean I belong there or not.

So, if people want to pin me down for that particular statement, then that is the environment and mentality we are here to change.

Well, the people's understanding is that when one declares as an 'Independent' these days, that is automatically an NRM vote.

I know! But that is a saying of cowards. Not everyone in this nation has to subscribe to a particular party.

What made you realise you had something to contribute?

When service fails in a state, people start waking up. It is like getting up in the morning and you ask your wife for a cup of tea with ginger and she brings hot chocolate instead. And you tell her, I wanted ginger, but she returns with lemongrass tea instead.

Eventually, you get up and go to the kitchen yourself. So, people have yearned for adequate leadership and it has not materialised. Some of us got up because the tasks we send these people for, we too can do them. We can deliver services exactly the way we want them.

For example, the current lord mayor [Erias Lukwago] has been on for 10 years; ask him what he has done for the people...

He may have done something, but even the best dancer leaves the stage at some point. We want leadership that is cycled, and not stagnant. Otherwise, it is normal for people to run out of ideas. Our wave is not a colonial mentality; it is a millennial mentality. We see things in a fresh way, but they see things in an archaic way. And we are the majority.

You millennials and your proud majority are really giving our liberator a headache!

We are not giving him a headache. What happens is that the world transforms. King Solomon, the Nebuchadnezzars, all came and went. We should ditch the mentality that things are for life.

The thing with Kampala is, past mayors have ridden on cheap popularity. Things like, 'let the street vendors stay', 'let taxis not pay tax'. I believe the city has become progressively messier because of trying to not upset the electorate. How would you do it?

I can tell you that those are some of the things I am looking at. For example with Kampala, I can give you the simplest examples; there are notices everywhere: 'Don't dump here', 'Don't urinate here', etc. But tell people not to dump after showing them facilities where to put the rubbish. The whole of Kampala has seven public toilets only.

The street vendors also have to trade in order to survive, but let us show them where to go. Don't kick them off the streets and back to the village. And you cannot take a man away from his kiosk in Kamwokya and relocate him to Namanve. Such solutions will take time, because those problems also grew with time. But I can't tackle those problems before embarking on the journey that enables me to find the solutions. So, let us start with the simple, obvious things and work upwards.

Is this a Bobi Wine [real name, Robert Kyagulanyi, Kyadondo East MP] frenzy? It seems every artiste now is eying politics.

I first harboured a vision for mayoral leadership in about 2005! My dream was to become Kampala's youngest mayor, but I was young and excitable. Those who think it is a Bobi Wine frenzy are also partially right.

Bobi Wine rang a bell and said, we are old enough now; we can do this. What is wrong with that? Everything on this earth was pioneered by someone.

In the music fraternity, the person who made West Africa popular was Youssou N'Dour. When Sony signed Youssou N'Dour other labels such as Arista Records rushed to West Africa to search for similar talent. So, someone has to crack the ice.

What does this mean for your relationship with singer Bebe Cool [the architect of Tubonga Naawe]?

Bebe Cool remains my friend. I shall not be isolated from Bebe Cool because of politics. We have not discussed my move for now, but this is not about my move; we are trying to move as a society. It is not individual.

The sentiment out there is that NRM felt Ragga Dee's showing in the last mayoral race was very poor, so they are pulling him out and replacing him with Chameleone.

Let people watch this space. You will see NRM fronting their own candidate. As simple as that. If NRM is backing me, why will it be backing other candidates, then?

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