By Muhimbise George.
Your excellence, kindly receive greetings from your Muzukulu and appreciation for any good things you have done for our country.
I write this letter in respect to your statement at the state funeral of Minister Engola in regards to salary demands and the remarks you made during Labor Day celebrations in which you rejected demands for a minimum wage!
Coincidentally and unfortunately this letter comes at a time when a Police officer has just shot an Indian investor over a small disagreement over a loan of 2 million . Sad that a whole investor has been murdered just for 2 million shillings, indeed if a nation can’t help the many who are poor, it can not save the few who are rich, what a sad moment!
Your excellency, your statement that the army and other public servants should not work for money but rather serve with patriotism was justifiable because our economy is small and cannot service all the demands of public servants and security personnel.
However, it is important to consider what Ugandans in the labor market go through. A Police Officer, teacher, prisons officer etc. who earns less than 500,000 cannot survive in Kampala metropolitan area unless he engages in corruption or some petty trade.
This money is too little to cater for school fees, food, rent, clothing, medical care etc. Many have chains of extended families behind who expect to to be supported!
So, medical workers steal medicine from hospitals, police officers collect money on the roads, teachers run away from schools etc.
Your excellence, the private sector is worse. In factories people work for 5,000 daily totaling 150,000 monthly! When they get injured, they are hardy compensated, lack protective gears, no social protection to support them in retirement yet they have to cater for bills on such a small pay!
Many workers do not have contracts or appointment letters and are sacked at will. Teachers in private schools are paid only 9 months in a year, they aren’t paid during holidays! Some of the beautiful bazukulu who work in bars and restaurants get no salary, they are given accommodation and it’s up to them to sell their bodies for survival!
The mammoth crowds you see in the evenings walking on foot to their homes just because they can’t afford transport costs or the women you see on streets at night doing petty trade on road pavements don’t do so as a fashion, they would also wish to spend evenings with their children!
So, Ugandans are bitter, they are angry because they are hungry! Whereas public servants and Ugandans should be patriotic, what is patriotism to a teacher whose own child can’t afford school fees or a person who is not sure of today’s supper? What is patriotism to a Ugandan whose wife has been detained on a hospital bed because he can’t afford medical bills or a boda boda whose motorbike has been impounded by police because he lacks third party? What’s patriotism to a security officer whose child has missed school because of no money? What’s patriotism to a medical worker who has no protective gear in a hospital & is risking his life?
Whereas we recognize that our economy is small, we see a lot of wastage! Uganda is like a parent who has only 2 liters of milk and each of his 10 children is demanding for a liter yet they know the milk is not enough. The parent instead of dividing the 2 liters so that each can have a quarter gives all the 2 liters to one child and is telling the other children that the milk is not enough! How can the nine understand you when even the little is being unfairly distributed?
When Ugandans remember the billions that were given to Pinneti for Lubowa Hoax-pital sorry hospital, the billions given to Atiak Sugar every budget, the billions given to Musenero for a non existent Covid Vaccine factory, the 80 bn recently given to Common Wealth Resort Hotel etc., Ugandans will never accept that there is no money.
The public servants would sacrifice if they saw their leaders sacrificing, but because it’s not the case, they have chosen to grab whatever they can as the Runyankole adage goes that “byabeire ebyokushisha tushiishe” loosely translated that, “if other’s have chosen to spoil things, let us also spoil”, it is until financial discipline is demonstrated at the top that everyone will accept to work for less pay!
The author is a member of the Alliance for National Transformation