President Museveni and other African heads of state were allegedly deprived of food and beddings during their trip last week to attend the ruling African National Congress’ (ANC) centenary celebrations, South African media reported yesterday.
News24 reported online that the President’s handlers rushed to Nandos where they bought him grilled chicken for dinner. It is understood Mr Museveni does not like fast-food.
The online publication said ANC officials had ordered owners of the houses it rented for VIPs at Woodlands Hills Wildlife Estate to remove all their possessions, leaving liquor as the only consumable in the rooms. President Museveni is a teetotaller.
“Ugandan officials had to leave Woodlands to go and buy duvets (thick bed covers), food and other necessities for the President as there was a bed without linen,” the newspaper reported, quoting Mampho Mmelaedi whom it said was caretaker at the house where Mr Museveni stayed. Deputy Principal Private Secretary Kintu Nyago, who accompanied the President to Bloemfontein city, was not available for comment.
However, Presidential Spokesperson Tamale Mirundi last evening said the deputy PPS had briefed him that there was no intentional lapse except that the town was “overwhelmed”. He said: “It is true certain things were not in plenty but I was told the President got a good place which was comfortable and clean.”
The venue of the celebrations, said Mr Tamale, could not accommodate all guests comfortably “but the good thing is that our President is not a person of luxury”. Critics at home say Mr Museveni lives large, flying aboard a latest model Gulfstream V jet and riding an expensive motorcade.
Mr Tamale had said: “In Africa when there are many visitors, more than a host can provide for, the guests appreciate [the situation]. This was not directed at our President.” The deficit of food and personal effects, News24 reported, also jolted Presidents Bingu wa Mutharika (Malawi), Obiang Mbasogo (Equatorial Guinea), Hifikepunye Pohamba (Namibia) and Rwanda’s Paul Kagame.
Namibian officials reportedly went out to buy foodstuff and pots to cook for their President. “I could see he was angry and disappointed,” a witness, Motladi Metsing, told the newspaper.
Other accounts suggested that Benin’s Thomas Boni “stormed out” of Woodlands Hills. Revelations of the organisational hiccups have gone viral on the internet, pushing the ANC government to the edge. In Kampala, Mr Johannes van Niekerk, the political counsellor and chargé d’affaires at the South African High Commission, told this newspaper that: “I am not aware of those [reported lapses] happening or any specific issues regarding President Museveni’s [visit].”
Thousands of guests on Sunday poured into Bloemfontein where ANC, Africa’s oldest political movement, was founded 100 years ago. That Mr Museveni reportedly settled for grilled chicken, if true, would be strange because courtiers say he does not consume birds.
At the height of the demonstrations by a section of Ugandans last year over spiralling food prices and the depreciating shilling, Mr Museveni chided them to stop complaining of hunger and eat local foodstuff. “For me, I only eat traditional food. I don’t change,” he said then. “When you have problems of imported food, for me am not bothered...I am not concerned because all the food am eating is local.”