Jennifer Musisi, loathed and admired in the same measure
Posted Sunday, December 4 2011 at 00:00
Messiah? Jennifer Musisi, the executive director of KCCA has since her appointment become a personality that you can’t miss, with her activities and relations fodder for media. But who is this enigmatic woman? Life sought out to discover by stalking her for a day.
She’s such a divisive character. To her admirers, she’s messiah sent, the light at the end of the dark tunnel that is Kampala City. However, to the critics, she’s a false prophet who will be unmasked with time.
She’s dominated the news with colourful stories ranging from head on collusions with an Army General, vendors, shopping malls owners, to a troublesome relationship with the Lord Mayor of Kampala.
But who is Jennifer Musisi? Who before taking on the challenge to modernise Kampala, was actually starting on her early retirement dream, having worked 13 years in URA and preparing to go into private business which included a confectionery, landscape and interior designing and simply spending time with her family?
Life spent a whole day, with the executive director of KCCA, ‘flying’ from one meeting to another as we chatted about everything, from her family, her business, her work, her thoughts about today’s issues, to rumours that she’s one of President Museveni’s closest confidants.
“Hi Robert! What happened?” asks Musisi as I walk into her office at City Hall. The appointment was for 7.30am, ending when she said so, and here was I, battered by the morning rain on a bodaboda to her office.
“You’ve missed the most important part of our day; the prayer meeting. Today we were praying for solutions to the bad roads.” She smiles and offers me a seat. The office, is bustling with staff coming in and out and casually chatting as they discuss a range of issues with her. I notice that they all simply call her “Jennifer”. The office though well-organised, is smaller than I had imagined, mostly in browns and creams. “It’s very important to start our day with Christ, through Him, we can do all things” she goes on with a, broad smile.
Musisi is known to have strong religious beliefs and consider her current job an assignment from God. On whether she fears that her beliefs could be perceived by some as a sign of mental imbalance of sorts.
“I’ve been “a born again believer” since secondary school. I believe that my life and what I do is guided by God,” she says staring straight at me. “The challenges I face in my life are overcome by God and the Biblical values I hold are not because I’m super strong or politically connected. I don’t really worry about what people think of my faith, it is what has worked for me and made me what I am,” a smiling Musisi adds.
One of her staff members brings breakfast for both of us, and she confesses that she drinks more coffee than eats meals. As we chat, she is constantly diverted to sign a document or talk to staff that keep walking in and out. We talk about that infamous “battle” with a known Army General, over a house in Kololo and what went through her mind when threatened with arrest.
She chuckles, “you see in my work as a public officer, I always use the law to guide my actions and decisions. This to me was a simple matter, we had the land title to that house and had requested for vacant possession. But then, I heard and read about my impending arrest! Fortunately, I don’t buckle under threats and intimidation, as long as I know I’m acting legally.”
She continues, “Many people called from everywhere, even from outside Uganda cautioning me and basically panicking on my behalf. Others were trying to interest me in negotiations, but I honestly did not see any issues for mediation or “negotiation.” It was neither a personal nor a political matter; KCCA owned the house and now wanted it back, full stop.”
But there was talk that the said house had been sold to a businessman who was also claiming it? I probe further. “Oh yes, I heard that too. But ownership wishes, bribes, influence peddling or threats do not normally solve legal issues, the case is in now in court, and we await the outcome.”
We’re interrupted by her Executive Assistant, who says a meeting is starting. She immediately cuts short the interview and barely touched breakfast and heads to the boardroom with me in tow. After introducing me, she starts the meeting and requests that it be done in one hour, because she’s meeting the UMA Executive at 12 pm. The meeting ends at 11.30am.
She quickly rushes out, telling her aides that she’s travelling with me in her car. “He’s shadowing me for the day, quizzing me non-stop! You know how journalists are,” she jokes with her aides as we head off to the UMA Showground.
We talk about her interest in baking. “I started baking when I was in Primary Five. My mother had a bread bakery, but my interest was cakes. I‘d save and buy baking items and books as my friends bought girly stuff. I taught myself almost everything I know about baking, developed my own recipes and designs. It’s a passion that grew into a top of the range enterprise over the years with directors, management and amazing staff.” So where is the bakery situated? What is the volume of business? She smiles, “I don’t like talking about my business and you will get nothing out of me on that,” she laughs, getting out of the car on arrival at Lugogo.