We were watching NTV news and public affairs commentator Andrew Mwenda was discussing Amama Mbabazi. At some stage he said that if Mbabazi insists on standing for president he will be charged under the new homosexuality law. “You mean Mbabazi is…” my maid gasped.
“Of course not,” snapped the minister’s maid. “What Mwenda means is that any law can be used to mess him up, and the most talked about law today is for homosexuality.”
“But why are people over-discussing this law?” asked my maid. “You would think every other person in town is a homo!”
“Same reason why they are discussing Mbabazi, you would think he is the only Ugandan who wants to be president,” noted the minister’s maid.
“But why do people discuss things that don’t affect them?” my maid asked.
“But TV is a public media and should discuss things that affect the public,” explained the minister’s maid.
“Fine, fine, but are Mbabazi’s ambitions and bisiyaga laws the things that affect Ugandans most?”
“What would you rather have them discuss?”
“Poverty for example,” asserted my maid. “Everybody is affected by poverty today, unlike Amama whom my mother cannot differentiate from Otafiire or Bukenya.”
“But maybe Mbabazi wants to become president so as to eradicate poverty quickly,” argued the minister’s maid.
“Uganda has had about 10 presidents and poverty has never gone away,” said my maid. “So one more president won’t make any difference. People should discuss how to end poverty without discussing presidents.”
“I agree,” said the minister’s maid. “But it is more interesting to discuss big people than our small problems. Like me, Shs5 million would change the course of my life, but who wants to discuss Shs5 million when each MP wants Shs150 million to pay their debts?”
“Okay, maybe the problem is over- discussing instead of doing,” said my maid. “I change my question to ‘what should Ugandans do instead of discussing politics all the time?”
“They should consume less and then produce more,” answered the minister’s maid without hesitation.
“But how can you consume less of what you don’t even have?” asked my maid.
“You would be surprised how much of what everybody consumes can be avoided,” said the minister’s maid. “I think everybody in town at least can reduce what they spend by half and save the money.
Since everybody cannot be a businessperson, we should just save to have enough in future. For example, you and I, why can’t we save most of our salaries, that is at least Shs 100,000 every month? At the end of the year that is Shs1.2 million, or about $500.”
“We are already saving because most needs are provided for,” said my maid. “But what about people who have to buy food, pay for transport and rent?”
“They are buying food that is too much for their bodies, using transport that is too high for their pockets and renting houses they cannot afford,” retorted the minister’s maid.
“Many graduates honourable has connected to jobs get several millions of shillings a month. But even those who get Shs500,000 should be able to save Shs400, 000 a month so that every year their account balance grows by Shs5 million.”
“Save Shs400,000!” exclaimed my maid. “Come on, be real.”
“Well, you asked what people can do to escape poverty and I am telling you,” said the minister’s maid. “If they prefer talking about Mbabazi and homosexuality laws, their brains will not open up to the things that really matter to them.
But once they let go of those things that don’t matter, they will start seeing all the possibilities. Why, for example, should anybody working in Kampala spend more than Shs100,000 a month? How much do they spend before they get the job anyway?”
“But after you get the job you get new expenses like transport and lunch,” my maid argued.
“That is because of following the masses like you don’t have a brain of your own,” said the minister’s maid. “Nobody needs to spend more than Shs1,000 a day on transport going to work, and they should walk back in the evening for better health, so transport should cost Shs22,000 a month.
And a beginner shouldn’t rent a house costing more than Shs50,000 a month. The healthiest food is also the cheapest and what is more, clothes in Owino are so cheap one can still buy a new set every month, all within the budget.
But because you want to spend like others, thinking that anybody cares about what you eat anyway, as if it goes in their stomach...”
“But you are not including even a shilling for entertainment in the budget!” protested my maid. “These are young people who need entertainment.”
“Being young does not mean being unable to reason,” said the minister’s maid as she stood up to go. “It is during entertainment that people spend what they don’t have. By the way, do all those ladies know that every sausage and bottle of beer you take adds to your ugliness five years down the line?”