Tuesday, October 30, 2012

How Vain Can We Get?

For arguments sake, let’s call her Tabitha. A few weeks ago, Tabitha threw a party at an upscale restaurant for her young daughter.
I of course was not invited because I didn’t know Tabitha, but was there to drop off an Indian friend with long hair who had been invited. When we got there, Indian Friend with Long Hair insisted that I hang around and I insisted that I should scoot since I had not been invited.
But he persisted and I stayed rather awkwardly because I could almost envision Tabitha sitting across the room seething that I had blatantly gate crashed her daughter’s birthday party and was also drinking her TML and eating her food.
Gate crashing a function is an easy affair but only if it is a big event where one can find a corner to hide, or you can recognize the host so you can hide away from them.
In this case I didn’t know the host, it was a small function with nowhere to hide and worst of all, I was not dressed for the function.
If it was embarrassing enough eating Tabitha’s dish and quaffing down numerous bottles of TML without a care in the world, how do you think I felt when she came up to me to say hello?
I chocked, I stammered, I wanted to do susu and I wanted the floor to open up and swallow me. The first four all did happen but as for the floor opening up and swallowing me? Bleak!
But in her stride, she didn’t vex nor ask me who invited me. She talked to me politely and put me at ease.
There was another development that happened that I guess was worse than my crashing the party. Tabitha had also bought a bottle of Green Label Johnnie Walker. However, there was one guest who took it upon himself to monopolize the bottle – not in terms of drinking it by himself, but by packing it and taking it home! Now that is what I call tight!
Last Sunday I was at Embutuu, the Bukedde show in Nakivubo Stadium and our Lord Mayor, Erias Lukwago turned up. This time he turned up without his baleebesi – Ken Lukyamuzi and Kizza Besigye though I am not too sure who is a muleebeesi to whom. Is Lukwago a muleebesi to Besigye and Lukyamuzi a muleebesi to Erias or is it the other way round? Anyway, that is a story for another Sunday.
When Erias turned up, he turned up in his new Land Rover that is said to have cost the city sh300m. But something troubled me. That Land rover has air con so why would he want to ride about with the windows down?
Ah, he perhaps wants people to see him in it? But then again the car as personalized number plates – Lord Mayor so even if the windows were up and he was enjoying the air con, Erias, we would still know it was you in the ride. We don’t need to see you. You have personalized numbers remember?
But that got me thinking. Perhaps he was not happy with the personalized number plate. You see his core supporters are Luganda speakers so they may not understand what the number plate ‘Lord Mayor’ means. I am sure he wanted it to read ‘Loodi Mayor’ the Luganda version so that he can get the message home to his people.
But not all of us are vain and you really can’t blame people for their short comings – or can we?       

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Who Is Zari's Ivan?

There has been a change in the old guard. Ten or so years ago, the old people who were associated with money and who threw money about were the likes of Ruparelia, Wava, Zzimwe and Lalani for example.
Then and out of the blue emerged a Michael Ezra who openly flaunted large wads of dollars. But the difference between Ruparelia, Wava, Zzimwe and Lalani is that we knew where their money came from and we could trace it.
On the other hand, we didn’t know where Ezra’s money came from and to-date we still don’t know where it all started.
Ezra’s stunt opened Pandora’s Box that suddenly Kampala was awash with young men and women who drove expensive cars and made it their mission to throw money about without a care in the world.
But with Bad Black languishing in Luzira, Judith Heard keeping a low profile, Susan Ochola having run out of ideas, Ezra who seems to have gone underground and Zari who is yesterday’s news, there was a vacuum and sensing an opportunity to exploit not only himself but the public too into the mix emerged Ivan Semwanga.
Mukulu Ivan as some of his associates refer to him is known as the better half of Zari. In their relationship, it was always Zari in the limelight and the one, who seemingly had the money.
Why Ivan decided to emerge from Zari’s skirt remains a mystery but he is here and in our faces trying to prove a point.  If anything I feel he would have been happier to stay under her skirt, but circumstances and the mystery surrounding their split (though he denies they have split) may have forced him and for a lack of a better word to use, to ‘show his balls’ that it was he who all along had the money and that Zari was just riding on his back.
Getting hold of Ivan is no easy affair. He is a regular at Fusion Auto Spa on Munyonyo road, where he is keen to show off his worth by buying numerous beers by the crate for whoever is there.
Such is his economic power that the Congolese and Nigerian’s who are laden with bling, drive expensive cars and come across as having money, have been forced to relocate from Fusion Auto Sap to a downtown bar in Kansanga where they can hold their own and not be over shadowed by Ivan. Whenever he drives in, he comes with an entourage of at least 30 people and in a number of cars – Hummer, Mercedes ML, Nissan Elgrad, BMW. Why he needs all those cars for an outing, only he knows.
His ‘people’ are fiercely protective of him that they thwarted my first three attempts to talk to him asking what it is that I wanted with him. I did eventually get to him and set up an appointment for the following day.
Ivan does not carry a cellphone because he has a number of ‘aides’ to do that for him nor does he carry money because once again there is an ‘aide’ tasked with that job.
We met at Hotel Bavita in Makerere for this interview and what I thought would be a one-one-interview turned out to be a one-on-forty interview.
His baleebesi were everywhere, each wanting to answer whatever question it is that I asked and he was happy enough to let them go ahead. Just as I had suspected, there was a communication problem not only between Ivan and I but between his baleebsi and I.
The funny thing about Ivan is that as much as he throws a dime about, he comes across as a rather shy and insecure man enough to suggest he was bullied at school. And there is nothing flamboyant about him. His watch was a plebe watch that was seemingly bought from a hawker near Radio One for 10k.
I throw at him the million dollar question: “How did you make your dime and how much are you worth?” to which the baleebesi were keen to answer but without putting a finger on the pulse.
All I managed to extract from them is that he worked very hard in South Africa and has two BMW’s, a Lamborghini, Aston Martin, Jaguar, Rolls Royce amongst many other cars.
Of course I was skeptical about all this because the chief muleebesi I am sure would not be able to tell the difference between an Aston Martin and a Lamborghini even if the makers’ badges were on them.
Ivan tells me that his cars and his property in South Africa which includes schools, apartments and commercial buildings have not been bought with bank loans. He says, “When I buy things I pay cash. Recently I bought another school called Heartland and which has four branches in South Africa for one million US dollars” to which I responded, “but where did you get the money from?” The response was quick enough – “from my bank account.”
He also has a hotel in Uganda though he wouldn’t tell me which one it is, houses and numerous apartments.
But that still does not answer the question of how a young man from Kayunga in Bugerere has access to that kind of money.
At this point the baleebesi are in full cry because another round of drinks has been ordered for and there is debate of whether they should go to Fusion Auto Spa or not. “I really have to go” he tells me. “You can ask a couple more questions but I really have to go”.
I ask him about the Namboole helicopter stunt. “I was in Kenya and I really wanted to watch the match (Cranes vs. Zambia) but getting a flight from Nairobi to be here in time was cutting it tight. A helicopter was more practical. And for that ‘practical ride’ he says he paid $18,000.
I throw at him more questions but he has lost interest in me and the interview and suggests we conclude in Club Silk.
If it has been hard enough to do an interview in the bar at Hotel Bativa and with his forty baleebesi crowding me, would it be any easier in Club Silk? I pass on his suggestion.
When he walked to the car park, if the anti riot police had been around, they would have wasted no time in breaking them up as they would have thought it was a demonstration in the making.
He opted to be driven in the Mercedes ML and as it screeched away leaving a dust bowl in its wake, I suddenly realized I was no wiser as to knowing who Ivan Semwanga is and how he actually made his money.

The Retreat

Am afraid I did something silly during the course of the week. I tried to do some exercise – something that my body so I found out was not equipped to do. This thing called exercise ended up giving me a bad back.
Lady Chemist in Bunga, suggested I buy a cream called Fungisafe which should do the trick. With her recommendation, I did buy it and while at home and reading through the small leaflet that came with it, nothing made sense for this is how they described Fungisafe.
“Terbinafine HCI (Fungisafe) is a synthetic allylamine derivative that exerts its antifungal effect by inhibiting squalene epoxidase; a key enzyme in sterol biosynthesis in fungi. This action results in a deficiency in ergosterol and a corresponding accumulation of squalene within the fungal cell causing fungal death. It is fungicidal against dermatophytes (Trichophyton, Microsporum and some Epidermophyton) mould fungi and some yeasts.”
What was all that about and why can’t the manufacturer put it in plain simple English and straight to the point – like: “Fungisafe will make you feel better?”
Moving on, I was at a retreat at a place called Kamouflage on the Munyonyo road. Its run by a chap called Thomas and one of the key attractions at Kamouflage is paintball shooting.
The purpose of the retreat was supposed to be all about team building so Elizabeth, the organizer told me. When the team turned up, I realized that there are more women than men within Sunday Vision.
Not everybody turned up – the noticeable absentees being Danny who draws excellent cartoons and Lucy who had a valid reason for on her Facebook page she posted something about her nanny running off. Why Danny didn’t turn up remains a mystery but perhaps he felt that if he is to team build, the only person in New Vision who can understand him is his fellow cartoonist, Mr. Ras.
While team building is designed to have a positive effect, to build up morale and enable one to get along better with ones work colleagues, there can at times be a negative effect.
During one of games where we had to imitate each other, one girl was less amused when she was described as walking with ‘bow legs’. “Bow legs” she screamed, “I don’t have bow legs, and I so don’t have bow legs!”
Okay so she sought to play down the whole matter but seriously inside her, I thought she was seething! Then there was one person – MM who, decided to be ‘a loner’. He really didn’t involve himself if the activities and kept to himself as he drank his Bell beer.
That was food for thought. Is there some grudge he has been harbouring that he wanted to bring out? Was he on the verge of cutting a wire? A wicked thought passed through me – who knows that one day he might turn up to work with a machete and go on a hacking spree. Thank God that I won’t be there if it happens because my work is sent by e-mail!
Overall the day was a success and I really did think that Elizabeth Namazzi, Joyday and the rest did a lot for the Sunday Vision team. Dr. Wendo who, is the head honcho at Sunday Vision can be satisfied that he has a good team who all work well together. With that I look forward to the Kampala Sun retreat and that companies, if they are not already doing it, should have retreats for their staff and not just senior staff  

Sunday, October 14, 2012

No Longer Shaken and Stired But Heineken

When it comes to water, I certainly know that my grandparents like most grandparents, did not drink bottled mineral water. The water they drank came from the village stream or borehole which was often a mile away. And most times they did not boil the water because then, the MOH had not thought – or was it had not bothered telling them about boiling water before they drank it.
To date, we have a market that is flooded with bottled mineral water. There is so much bottled mineral water on the market that it is often gets confusing as in terms of what does one buy, which is the best brand.
Thankfully, I don’t drink water – bottled or otherwise for as much as that advert tells us that water is life the reality is that water has no taste. It is just there and very bland. If only some sugar could be added into it.
That said, there is a chap called Daniel Craig – the James Bond actor who is coming to Uganda this Thursday and will be in Cineplex, Oasis Mall.
Ok, he may not be here in person but the beer brand he drinks in the movie will be sponsoring the premier of the movie. The beer, which is brewed in Holland, also sponsors the football European Champions League amongst other things
So what’s the big deal about beer, James Bond and Daniel Craig? Well Juliana Kagwa who, is the country manager for Heineken and certain Koen Mroshuis who is Heineken’s General Manager for East Africa invited me and a whole host of other people on an ‘open your world’ boat cruise last week.
Boat cruises are boat cruises and this one was no different from the many that I have previously attended. There were plenty of drinks, food and of course, a presentation given by both Kagwa and Morshuis.
But the thing that really intrigued was that James Bond will no longer be drinking his usual – Vodka Martini and thus he will no longer be telling the barman that he wants it: “shaken, not stirred.”
He won’t be drinking Vodka Martini because Kagwa, Morshuis and the bigwigs back at Heineken’s head office in Amsterdam have lured James Bond away from Vodka Martini and on to their brand. And I also hear that the move cost them millions of US dollars.
It kind of reminds me of the battles I used to have with Uganda Breweries and Nile Breweries when the likes of Sandor Walusimbi, Marion Muyobo and Brenda Mbathi were still with UBL
I am sure that they didn’t spend the same kind of dime on luring me away from their brands that Heineken spent luring James Bond away from Vodka Martini. Like I said, Heineken spent millions on Bond. I am also sure that they also threw in other incentives to make him sign.
If I recall, all I got from UBL was a t-shirt and a couple of beers and that was it, I was on board. I still can’t believe that I sold myself so cheaply but now that I know millions of US dollars were spent on Bond, is this the right time to jump off the UBL ship and throw myself at the feet of Kagwa and Morshuis?
But then again with an average price tag of 10k per bottle in most pubs, which not only shook me but stirred me, it might just be more than a tall financial order to meet on my part – well unless I get invited to another cruise and the movie premier on Thursday.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Who Does Independence Day Belong To?

I was at the KCCA Carnival over the weekend and whilst I was quaffing a TML, I was introduced to a lady who for arguments sake, I will call Jennifer Musisi.
Jennifer so it turns out is the head honcho at KCCA and from what I gathered, some people have beef with her. Anyway after jazzing with the lady I took myself on a walk about which was a big mistake. It was a mistake because I trod on the grass near Nandos and that was it.
Next I knew I was in the air, in the air because three burley men in KCCA uniforms were not happy with what I had done. Can you imagine they made me sit by the road side and gave me a lecture about the need to preserve the grass and all?
Ok I was in the wrong, and throughout the carnival, I watched them sensitizing people about trampling on the grass and flowers. “We are trying to give you a clean and organized city but we can’t do it if you break the rules” so one of the officials screamed out.
Now I do understand Jennifer better, and I do understand her rationale when she breaks down gas stations and buildings that have been built in the road reserves or in the wetlands.
With the weekend gone, it was Independence Day – 50 years of it. I thought of going to Kololo but I was not invited and neither was Bobby Wine but he was brave enough to gate crash the event and was promptly bounced. But why would they bounce him from attending the celebrations?
I was not as brave as Wine and stayed at home where I watched the proceedings on TV. But there was something that bothered me, and I really mean it bothered me.
The lady who was the MC I felt personalized the event. When the floats went by, she said: “Your Excellency, in the 50 years of independence we have done….” But was 50 years of independence all about President Museveni for I can’t recall reading in the history books that it was only M7 who fought for independence?
It was our day too we the plebes, the wannainchi and so on. Therefore she should have been saying: “Ugandans, in the 50 years of freedom we have achieved this and that.” With that I switched off the TV for a while, popped open the fridge and quaffed down another TML. When I turned the TV back on, the lady MC had been replaced the some chap who got his underwear in a twist. I have to correct him and tell him that a MI-24 is not a fighter jet but a helicopter. I also have to tell him that I the American built F-16 fighter jet can out fly the Sukhoi jet. All he had to do was to go to Google and he would have avoided the gaff.
Still on independence, one of the benefactors was the army in form of the presidential guard. I was at Speke Resort Munyonyo and all the soldiers who that been deployed there were in new uniforms – right down from their hats to the boots.
I have to end it here because PN, who is the Chief Sub-Editor at Sunday Vision is on my case because the article is late.      

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Job Interviews

These days and with the downward turn in the global economic climate jobs are not only hard to come by but people are being laid off left, right and centre. People who do have jobs will do just about everything to hang on to them.
I would also presume that people who do not have jobs will fight tooth and nail to get a job, do all the required research when a job opportunity arises and be on top of their game if an interview was granted.
Henry is somebody I have known for a while. Since he got laid off almost two years ago, he has had a hard time finding a job. He has walked the streets, he has worn out the soles of his shoes and his jua kail CV has been thrown into the dustbin the moment he leaves and office.
So he comes to me asking that I use my connections to get him a job at one of the hotels. I kept on giving him the brush off till I could do it no more and till I could no longer ignore his phone calls.
When I asked him what job he wanted to do in the hotel he was very assertive and was quick to answer: “TB, you know the hotel better than I do, what do you think l should do” he asked.
I had to be miffed. It was he going to work there and not I so he ought to have done some research into the various jobs in the hotel. But he wanted me to hold his hand, he wanted me to offer him a job on a silver platter yet all I could do was get him an interview.
I told him what he would need – a letter from the LC, his CV and his papers and that his interview was set for Thursday at 2:00pm.
Come Thursday at 1:30pm he sends me a txt to say he will be late because he has yet to pick up the letter from the LC. But why didn’t he do that days before so I asked myself.
But get this, he eventually strolled in for the interview at 4:00pm with not a care in the world. I obviously was not surprised when he was in an out of the HR office in less than five minutes.
Sometime back when I worked with WBS television, on her first day, a young girl had been given a job by a higher authority and I was to place her. When I asked her what she can do, she replied, “anything.”
“Anything” so I said and added, “I like that, I really like that.” Young Girl smiled and was very confident about herself and her abilities.
The smile was soon wiped off her face when I took to the janitor’s closet and handed her a mop and bucket and told her she was to wipe down the corridor every hour.
Ha, Young Girl shot me a look then barked and said: “I came for a job!” I fired back telling her that she said she could do anything. With that she turned on her heels and walked out. Ten minutes later I got a call from Higher Authority instructing me to give her a proper job if not it would be I mopping the corridor.
So I gave her a ‘proper job’ and watched very painfully for almost a year while she screwed up. By then Higher Authority was tired of her messing up and tossed her out.
Moral of the story? The six P’s – Proper Planning Prevents a Piss Poor Performance   

Expelled From School And Sent to Prison

I was fortunate enough, that during my academic career, I was never suspended or expelled from school – not because I was a good boy who to...