Monday, June 12, 2017

I Properly Slept At State of Nation Address

A couple of weeks ago, an invitation to attend President Museveni’s Sate of The Nation address at Serena Conference Centre fell into my lap. Normally I tend to shy away from state functions because 1. Mr Museveni is likely to turn up three hours late, 2. His security detail will confiscate our cell phones, 3. Security will also sequester my lighter and match box and I will never see them again. Suffice to say that all the above did happen. M7 turned up two-and-a-half hours late, our phones were taken and I never saw my lighter again.

Head of State: President M7
According to the programme, we invited guests, were supposed to be in our seats by 12:30pm. I was in my seat by 12:35pm. The Governor of Bank of Uganda, Emmanuel Mutebile was due in his seat by 1:00pm and followed by Prime Minister Ruhakana Ruganda ten minutes later. Except that Ruganda turned up just before midday. Either he is a time keeping stickler or he was so eager to listen to what his boss had to say.

The card also accorded me the privilege of sitting in the section reserved for heads of institutions. So behind me was Deputy Governor of Bank of Uganda, Louis Kasekende, UNRA roads boss, Allen Kagina and KCCA boss, Jennifer Musisi while Richard Byarugaba of NSSF sat in front of me. When Byarugaba queried why I was sitting in this section, Ofwono Opondo of The Media Centre was quick to point out that news of my ‘appointment’ had yet to reach his desk.

Moving on, you know when you attend a wedding and you ask Friend who is already there to save you a seat? Well, Kagina and Musisi did exactly that. Kagina walked in first and perched her bag on the seat next to her. Ten minutes later, in saunters Musisi and when Kagina called out to her and pointed at the seat next to her, Musisi gave her the thumbs up. Interestingly enough, Kagina and Musisi are like sixth formers. Along with Doris Akol of URA, they giggled, they laughed and told jokes. Good friends they are.

Sisters: Doris Akol, Jennifer Musisi, Allen Kagina 
One thing we all had in common was our fear of the press who were on the prowl to take pictures of anybody who dared to nod off. Byarugaba made a pact with Person sitting next to him to pinch him if he fell asleep. I had sat myself next to a sign post that provided some cover and was mortified when one of the ushers took it away. The problem with the media is that these days, is that they have sophisticated long lenses and they could be in the far corner of the room and still manage to get your picture without you noticing.

And somewhere into the speech I began to nod off. I fought hard enough but four or five times I did nod off and was only woken up by Speaker of Parliament shrieking to MPs to calm themselves down. And every time I woke up, the first thing I did was to check my mouth in case I had drooled strings of malusu while I was asleep.

Me: Trying to stave off sleep
Over the next three days I bought and scoured all the newspapers and phew (!), there were no pictures of me asleep. I had obviously slept in such a way that it was impossible to have gotten a clean and clear picture of me.

Then one of my tights, Paul Kaheru decides to go and ruin everything. I don’t know where he got the clip from, but it was Agnes Nandtutu ‘shelling’. And in the clip, I am clearing seen contorting my face and swirling water in my mouth. Not good.

Now, what did M7 say in his speech? He said... but alas am out of space. Sorry.      

Pictures and News Clip: New Vision, NTV


The Fat Malusu Drooling Waitress

When I sat down, her lips were drooling malusu on the bar counter, eyes wide open and focused on the television set pinned to the wall. I couldn’t see what she was watching but going by the dialogue, it was some soap of sorts.

A minute later when she registered there was a customer, she frowned and screwed up her face – almost like I had walked in at the most inappropriate time and if she came to tend to me, she would miss out on the plot. So her lips stayed drooling malusu on the bar, her eyes narrowed and she continued to watch. And I sat there muttering a string of tumbavu’s under my breath.

Normally I would have walked up to her and not only assured her, but also given her a lecture on the importance of customer care, but I wasn’t in the mood. “Not today TB” so I told myself.

Waitress at Work. She is not the one depicted in the story
Customer care in Uganda is wanting. Few of those pretty but extremely daft girls that corporate companies hire to front their businesses have an understanding about it. Once in uniform, they stand there with a bland look that reads: “Please don’t come to me. Go to the other girls. I have not had lunch and I need 2k for boda to take me home which, I don’t have.” Hmm!

Getting back, when Waitress eventually clawed her lips from slavering malusu on the counter, she slithered over in the slowest of slow motions, stood before me and you will never guess what her first words were - not ‘welcome’ or ‘good afternoon’.

Rather, it was a loud shrill of sook’ojje (first come) and directed at Hawker walking by. After getting him to show her dozens of hair bands and accessories and haggling with him for almost five minutes, she briskly told him she doesn’t have the money and sent him packing. Then she turned round to me, swirled the opener on her index finger and stared at me. So I stared back at her. After a two minute standoff, she turned on her heels and in slow motion took her very large butt back to her soap where I distinctively heard her telling colleague that: “Customer is not telling me what he wants. What am I supposed to do?” That calls for an ‘hmm’ don’t you think?

But not all customer care stories are horror stories. I was at Nampeera’s in Soya and glued on the door is a poster that reads: “Premium Quality Offer. Buy 4, get 1 Free” - a promotion that runs every Friday and Saturday. I reminded Maria who works there, that I was there the previous Friday and had bought four beers but didn’t get my freebie. In her defence, she said it was not her fault but that of the UBL who didn’t deliver the freebie drinks. She also advised that I to talk to Young Lady who was replacing posters.

Promotion: The Offer at Nampeera's

When I explained to Young Lady who works for UBL – Valerien Namuli, she didn’t give me one of those “so what do you want me to do” looks. Instead and with purpose, she went and had a chat with Maria, came back and profusely apologised stating that there was a communication breakdown then offered two TMLs on the house to sooth my ruffled ego.

The other day, I was having a chat with Charlotte Beauvoisin, a travel writer, who told me of her experience in an Uber cab. That no sooner had she sat down than greetings were forthcoming including offering her a variety of magazines and newspapers she could read during the trip. Plus he also offered her complimentary bottled water and hand wipes!

Uber Experience: Charlotte Beauvoisin
Now, Namuli and Uber Driver, certainly have the right approach to customer care! 

Pictures: New Vision, Charlotte Beauvoisin    

Friday, June 2, 2017

Jenny Musisi Got The Dust Policy Wrong

I don’t like being perturbed especially on a Sunday. It disorganises me and leaves me trying to figure out ‘why’ yet, I could be doing something more useful like – err, like chilling with a cold TML and a skewer of meat in hand. But, I am perturbed with what’s happening at Kampala City Council Authority (KCCA) because Executive Director, Jennifer Musisi, got the dust policy all wrong.

I once met her at Heathrow Airport where we had a ten minute chat and I walked away with a high regard for her. I also think in the time she’s been at the helm, she has done positive work for the city especially in trying to keep it clean that every morning, Army of Women take to the streets and do their best to sweep away our litter.

But there is a problem. Right from Speke Resort Munyonyo to Kansanga or as far away as Industrial Area, Bugolobi, Ntinda or Old Kiira Road, 95 per cent of the rubbish that Army of Women sweep away, is not actual litter like – empty bottles of water, cans of Coke or paper. Rather, they spend the working day sweeping away dust – or is it soil?

By 8:00am, they are on the streets ridding the roads clean of dust and soil which, they sweep into the gutters. If there is no gutter, they heap it into small mounds which, they leave abandoned by the roadside, or throw on the steep banks of the road.

Obviously during the night when there is a rain shower, the discarded soil on the banks of the road is washed back into the roads. And the following day, the efforts of the previous day have amounted to zilch. So what do they do? They repeat the process all over again - sweeping the roads clean of dust, piling the soil into little heaps, sweeping it into the gutters or throwing it onto the banks of the road. And they do this Monday though to Saturday, throughout the year.

But there is more to the tale. When they sweep the dust and soil into the gutters, I guess there is no need to tell you what happens next, but I have to because Official at KCCA doesn’t see it.

The gutters eventually get clogged which causes flooding. And on the rare occasion that that the powers that be at KCCA realise the flooding is caused by clogged gutters, they dispatch Official wearing one of those high visibility jackets and a shiny hardhat that looks like it was unpacked from the box that very morning to see what can be done.

Official in high visibility jacket and shiny new hardhat walks about with a clipboard scribbling some idle notes and once he has gathered all the necessary information, I presume he retreats back to his office and brainstorms with Colleague until ‘Eureka!’ is achieved.

His eureka solution, is to return to the streets wearing his high visibility jacket and shiny new hard hat to tell Army of Women to dig the soil and dust out of the gutters so the rain water can wash away unimpaired into Nakivubo Channel or wherever it’s supposed to go.

Army of Women simply do as told and dig the soil up out of the gutters and once again, is there any need to tell you what happens next? No there isn’t, but I will, because Official in high visibility jacket and shiny new hard hat doesn’t appear to know.

The following day, Army of Women sweep the soil and dust they dug up back into the gutters, or leave small mounds of soil or throw it onto the banks of the road so when it rains...

Now do you see why I am perturbed?

Pictures: Daily Monitor, New Vision                       

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

No Term Limit For Patrick Bitature At Umeme

For a split second, I thought former Minister of Finance, Gerald Ssendaula, who sits on the board at Umeme, was going to going to pull off a boardroom coup d’etat and decide to keep the job for himself.

Board Member: Gerald Ssendaula

 A couple of weeks ago, Patrick Bitature, who is chairman of the board, had his job on the line. As he was standing for re-election, he was asked to leave the room while Shareholder decided his fate. In that time frame – a period of 40 minutes, Ssendaula was elevated to Chairman as the vote went on. While Bitature was unanimously re-elected, Elderly Shareholder who sat a couple of rows behind me voted against. When Ssendaula announced there was Shareholder who was against the re-appointment, all the other Shareholders scoured the room to see who it was. When he was smoked out, they all glared at him that he quickly lowered his arm – but by then it was too late. His vote had already been registered.

The Umeme shareholders meeting, was the first time, I had been to such a meeting and it was a morning of discovery that being Board Chairman, is no easy job. Okay, so there are some perks to the job in that all the employees call you Chairman. And at a click of your fingers, MD and even CEO will humble themselves and listen to all that you have to say. However, during a shareholders meeting, all that does not happen because Shareholder trumps Chairman. It’s Shareholder who clicks his fingers and Chairman does the dancing.

Patrick held it together as he went though the financials. He spoke well. He was articulate and he laboured to breakdown anything that was complex for us to understand. Even when the MD, Selestino Babungi, was giving his talk, he would politely interrupt and ask him to explicate things in greater detail.

Re-elected Chairman: Patrick Bitature

Then it was time for the question and answer session. One thing Shareholder had in common was to eulogize the board - in that they would spend at least seven minutes saying thank you for this and that. In fact, I am so sure that some of them would have been quite content with just saying thank you and doing away with asking questions.

But when they were done with saying thank you, and they got down to the nitty gritty, Shareholder asked some very sturdy questions. Some even threw ‘curveball’ questions. The beauty about being Chairman of The Board is that when a question becomes too complex to answer, rather than sweat it out or let it stress you, it’s merely a case of looking across to MD or Company Secretary and let them take the flack. If not, just make a directive – like: “MD, have you heard that question? Well act on it and get back to me before the close of day” which, Patrick did a few times.

Then there is Shareholder who is deemed to be a ‘thorn’. The first sat in the front row – Alfred Kabuchu, if memory serves me correct and who asked a stream of ‘thorn-in-the side’ questions. Whenever he stood up to ask a question, there was a polite ‘masked glare’ from The Board who perhaps clandestinely, hoped that Invisible Security Guard would come and banish him from the room.

Shareholder: Alfred Kabuchu

And in the row behind me, despite Patrick having answered four times previously on questions to do with late payment of dividends, Shareholder still felt the need to ask the question all over again except, he didn’t jump straight into the question. He first gave The Board a mini lecture.              

After ten years as Board Chairman, the one quip that I expected Patrick to blurt out upon his re-election was: “entebbe ewooma!” But he didn’t. He merely humbled himself. 

Pictures: New Vision, Internet                

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Give Smokers Some Leeway!

My parents, The World Health Organisation (WHO) and The Ministry of Health, have issues with smoking and for obvious reasons because WHO reckons that....
  • ·         Six million people die from tobacco related diseases every year which, averages out at one death every six seconds.
  • ·         22% of the world’s population aged 15+ are smokers. 78% do not smoke. Non smoking is becoming the norm.
  • ·         10% of the world’s population live in countries that have sufficiently high tax rates on cigarettes.

Meanwhile in the UK, The British Lung Foundation led a campaign to outlaw smoking in cars that have children in it.  They claim more than 430,000 children are exposed to second hand smoke in the family car each week. The campaign was successful that effective October 2015, legislation was passed make it an offence to smoke in a car with children in it.

Although I have been known to smoke, I do feel it was a good idea to ban smoking inside buildings such as bars and restaurants. Those who want to smoke can always make to with going outside. In England for example, pubs used to have a Smokers Lounge until legislation outlawed smoking in all public buildings.

I was in transit in Dubai recently and after a 7-hour flight, I desperately craved for a cigarette. Dubai International, unlike Entebbe or Heathrow and Gatwick airports in the UK, does provide a smokers lounge which, was a relief. With two hours to kill, I figured I could smoke enough cigarettes to get me through the next leg of my journey – another 7-hour flight at that.

Anybody who has been through Dubai International, will be in agreement with me that it is a first rate airport. Walking though the terminal, one is in awe at the design and attention to detail that went into it. Another thing, just about everything you could possibly want to buy is sold in the airport – right from the usual duty free shopping to cars and apartments.

With that, I expected to find a plush smoker lounge complete with all the amenities - plus a couple of Lebanese belly dancers for me to gawp at while a scantily clad petite lady with an average bust massaged my feet. Sitting by my side, would be the prettiest girl from Arabia and whose job would be to light my cigarettes, hold the ashtray out for me and to spray my mouth with mouth wash to get rid of the smell.

Alas, when I got to the lounge, there was none of that. As soon as I opened the door, there was a haze of smoke that is was next to impossible to see anything in front of me. Let me put it this way. Imagine being in a small room that has no ventilation while watching the sigiri light up or having your nose pressed inside exhaust pipe of a truck carrying charcoal from Bushenyi to Kampala.

That was the smoker lounge. The heat was stifling and after my first puff, I had a thought. Why am smoking? Why don’t I simply make do with inhaling the second hand smoke? In the end, I barely managed three puffs. It was too much. When I got outside, the smell of fresh air was such a relief. It took some time to get my breath back and as I sat looking at the lounge, there was a need to ask myself a question. Is that what non smokers go through whenever they are next to a smoker?

As I pondered on that, Non Smoker who sat next to me had this to say: “Jeez, you smell like a smoke factory” and relocated herself as far away from me as possible.                           

Monday, May 8, 2017

When Your Privacy Is Invaded

Simply put, people have got to start behaving and learn to respect personal space and to stop encroaching. Many years ago, on a Sunday at that – not that it would have made a difference had it not been a Sunday, I was on an empty London bus - save for Driver.

When we got to Mile End bus stop, which is outside a Jehovah’s Witness church, Bible Bashing Jajja boarded. As she pays her fare, she heaps Driver words of religious wisdom then starts her journey down the aisle to find a seat.

She had freedom of choice. She could have sat on any of the empty seats but nedda, she made a beeline to sit next to me and that was cause for concern. Had she been some young fit female with a nubile body, I would have welcomed the invasion of privacy - except, she wasn’t that. She was Bible Bashing Jajja who had difficulty walking and worse, her skin hung off her body the way the skin ghastly hangs off the nose of a yet to be slaughtered Christmas lunch turkey.

Of course, I swung her ‘the look’. And she retorted by swinging me her look that read: “Don’t you dare open your mouth. Sit there and listen to what I have to say.” And with that, out came the Bible and the more she read out the passage, she more she whipped herself into some sort of freaky frenzy that was punctuated with chants of praise the lord.

When I got to my stop, rather than head straight home as I had planned, a detour to the nearest ale house beckoned to have more than a couple of shots of ‘the striding man’ while berating myself for allowing my personal space to be invaded.

Godfrey and Tom are loaded. They are nice chaps but they are invaders of personal space. I am cool about shaking hands as a greeting or concluding a deal. Two quick shakes suffice. There is no need to take it beyond that – except, Tom and Godfrey do. They go on even when it’s quite evident that your grip has relaxed and thus signalling the end of the handshake. But there is more. Having already invaded your privacy by not letting go after two handshakes, they then entwine their fingers into yours and want to walk with you. So not cool!

If you do manage to untangle your fingers from theirs, they won’t leave it be. Once again their hands will come searching for yours. The only way to get yourself out of that quagmire is to make sure your hands are full.

I was in The Fox and Hounds, a pub near the Bank of England shortly before Stockbroker descended in for his obligatory liquid lunch. In the basement are the men’s toilets with close to twelve urinals and six cubicles.

When I walked in there was nobody there that, I had the freedom of choice to pick whatever urinal that I wanted to pee into. Urinal six from the door looked good and ten seconds after I unzipped, the door opens and in walks Stockbroker.

Should I pause a while and let you figure out what happened next? Dude walked up to urinal seven to do his thing. Really, of all urinals he could have picked, he decides to use the one right next to me?! Obviously there was a just need to glare at him which I did. But he didn’t reciprocate like Bible Bashing Jajja did, so I had no recourse but utter an ‘hmm’ of disgust at the invasion of my privacy.

And what’s the deal with people who come and press up against you in the ATM queue?          


Saturday, April 29, 2017

Meet Bebe Cool Zuena

If Parent of Impressionable Teen has cause to vent fury, it’s not with Lady Gaga, them Kardashian girls or with ‘Lil’ Wayne. It’s home grown and with Bebe Cool. Can we bookmark Bebe till later? We can? Cool.

No Tattoo Room Left:  Lil Wayne

In my teens, there was no internet, Twitter or Facebook and thus no Hollywood idols to follow and who could scatter us. When it came to impressing Girlfie, it was about wearing tight butt and crotch hugging strides, afros, platform shoes and not buttoning up our shirts all to the top.

But Parent didn’t get nutty because he too, was busy dressing up like the local talent - Jimmy Katumba, Elly Wamala and The Afrigo Band in tight strides to impress Wifey.

Hollywood has a way of showing affection. Angelina Jolie had a tattoo - ‘Billy Bob’ of husband – Billy Bob Thornton on her arm as did Big Bang Theory Star, Kaley Cuoco, of husband - Ryan Sweeting. Eva Longoria had three tattoos in honour of hubby, Tony Parker. She had the word ‘nine’ on the back of her neck since that was Parker's number, the date of their marriage on her wrist and his initials apparently hidden somewhere else on her body. Model and TV personality, Heidi Klum had a tattoo reading ‘Seal’ on her right arm while musician, Marc Anthony got one that read - ‘Jennifer’ when he was dating J-Lo while actress Denise Richards got herself a ‘Charlie’ when she was married to Charlie Sheen.

But in Hollywood as we all know, few relationships go the distance that Jolie, Cuoco, Longoria, Klum eventually split or got divorced and thus the tattoos had to go.

Here, when it comes to affection, we take Girlfie to a kafunda that has a garden and sit at the very back by the boundary wall and pull the sunshade umbrella very low so we can’t be seen. Or we take her to some beach and if the ATM allows, to some fancy expensive place.

But now there are issues. Today, Girlfie wants more than just being taken for an outing to Bobbi Wine’s Busabala beach. She wants more than just holding hands or being seen in public together or being bought a ride with her name on the number plates. She wants Hollywood. She wants a man with razzmatazz. She wants her man to do something extraordinary for her so all other women – and men know that she has Boyfie.

And this is where we remove the bookmark and bring Bebe back into the fray. Bebe has heeded those demands, upped his ante, gone Hollywood and done something that surely must be a first in this dusty country of ours. He had a tattoo done. So what I hear you cry.
Under The Ink: Bebe Cool

Did you not read the part in the previous paragraph where I said he has upped his ante and gone Hollywood?” Not only has he had a tattoo done, he has had it done on his neck for the world to see. And his chosen tattoo? Zuena!

Parent of impressionable Teen Daughter or Son must be aghast with Bebe’s stunt, just in case they come home one evening flashing similar tattoos of Boyfie or Girlfie’s name etched into their necks or across their knuckles.
Marked For Life: Bebe Cool Zuena 

I am not sure if Zuena pushed him into having it done, or it was a moment of temporary insanity on his part, but what is certain, is that he didn’t read about the anguish and torment that Jolie, Cuoco, Klum and Richards had to endure in covering up their tattoos when their relationships soured.

What’s his Plan B if the tattoo has to be removed? What the heck - I joined a 100k-to-join sweepstake and stand to reap at least 2m if he and Zuena....

Pictures: Bebe Cool, Internet