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?          


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