When Prisca Sezi Mbaguta and I walked through the gates of Forest Resort, Kasenge in Mukono District, a place which hosts numerous activities, she rushed ahead of me.
From one customer to another, we hopped as she exchanged pleasantries with them and asked if they had been attended to. It is then that she briefly walked me around the facility and asked me to settle for a meal.
On walking out of university, Mbaguta landed her first stint as a personnel officer, in the Ministry of Works. Although this lasted a short time, she joined the ministry of agriculture, fisheries and animal husbandry and rose further in public service.
“Between 1980 and 1983, I served as the principal personnel officer in the Public Service Commission, and as the chief personnel officer in the Ministry of Public Services until 1990. In 1990, I served briefly as the deputy secretary to Public Service Review Commission. Later that year, I was appointed commissioner of personnel management until 1996,” she recalls.
From 1996 until 1999, she served as the acting director, human resource management, in the Ministry of Public Service. She concurrently served as the director of human resource management in the same ministry before becoming director for public sector reform. Mbaguta spent time making sure that retired people got their deserved pension, a milestone she attributes to her hard work.
“Can the women and men who have served this country be given what is worth their sweat? It may not be much, but can it be given to them in time?” She asks, adding that this should be the case for their salaries.
In June 2006, Mbaguta was appointed minister of state for Public Service.
“The appointment came as a chance for me to serve my country, which I did for 10 years. It was a pleasant surprise, besides appointing me as minister ex officio, politically taking care of Rukungiri”.
In the cabinet reshuffle of February 16, 2009, and that of May 27, 2011, she retained her cabinet portfolio.
She then tried her hand at active politics and contested to be a woman MP for Rukungiri District in 2011.
But what was it like being MP? Mbaguta says it was fine, but her concern was that there was no genuine focus on service delivery to ‘the people’.
“It is disturbing that there is nothing much to deliver, apart from caring for basics such as education, and maintenance of roads,” she says adding that these are the small things which, if taken care of make the electorate happy. “When people are happy, it is gratifying to the leader.”
Mbaguta planned for her retirement while in public service and she took strides to her most coveted dream, hospitality.
“I advise those intending to retire, to plan immediately they take up jobs. Don’t think that everything will forever be golden. Once you are at Monitor, know that Monitor can tell you to go anytime. And once you’re out, you are heading for your retirement,” she says.
But how did she do it? Before 1973, Mbaguta and her husband Dr Charles Sezi using their savings, they bought a piece of land in Kasenge,.
Fortunately for them, the land was cheaper than it is today, and they started up with some agricultural activities, mainly growing matooke, rearing goats and cattle.
To date, a kraal stands next to the resort, but a first time visitor will hardly tell there are cattle. The heads provide Mbaguta with both milk and beef.
Gradually, they did away with goats.
“They were going around eating everything unlike cows which ‘behave’ ”. says Mbaguta.
The 74-year-old, lives in Nakasero and says that during those earlier days, she made trips to their plot of land every Saturday, as she hatched a plan on what would be done with it. In 2009, the grasslands had fully grown and with her husband brought the resort to life.
“I did this knowing that one day, I would retire,” she reveals.
The couple split the land into sections, demarcating it into gardens, cottages for accommodation, and the eating arena (restaurant and lounge). In order to promote it, she made flyers which were distributed. The fees were affordable for the domestic visitors and they have changed over time. Mbaguta says, she makes developments on a one step at a time basis.
Mbaguta says she only misses her work colleagues at office, but by and large she’s got company offered by the different people she gets to interact with.
“People from all walks of life come here and take nature walks, dine, dance, converse, play, hold parties, have their honeymoons and do spot fishing,” she explains and continues that, she appreciates “my late sister Maria Mutagamba, who declared Uganda a birding destination from here.This brought in many international birdwatchers,” she recounts.
Currently, Mbaguta also offers employment to the youth.
“There’s a young man who manages seven other workers on my behalf, and also doubles as the guide for forest treks,” the former minister says.
When they host bigger functions, she outsources youth from the community, which is also her way of giving back.
In her retirement, Mbaguta’s typical day is engaged.
“There is work even in retirement. I don’t want to be like someone I asked what she is up to, and her reply was, “I stay home and sleep, or read a newspaper”.
She wakes up at 5am, and eats her breakfast at 7am before driving to the resort. Once at her destination, she checks on the progress such as ensuring that the forest is not being cut.
“I check on my calves and have lunch. I then relax before departure at 6pm,” she shares.
The lows and routine
Not all is rosy for Mbaguta. Covid-19 has slowed down business and on other occasions, the heavy traffic is a menace.
She says once she beats the traffic, she briefly attends some meetings before getting home.
“Sometimes if it is unnecessary to go home, I ask the staff to prepare for me a room, where I stay until the next day,” Mbaguta says.
But this is not all Mbaguta does. She goes to church on Sunday, and midway our interview, she excuses herself for 30 minutes, to attend a Holy Mass being conducted by a group of visitors at the venue.
“When groups come here for team building, some request me to present papers because of my background in human resource management,” she adds.
Lessons and advice
In the phase of life, Mbaguta has learnt that relationships with people are integral for one’s life.
“Once you leave public life or stop working, you should find a source of income. Live for something else, and not clamour to remain in office. There are always alternatives to life,” she cautions.
She adds that, former politicians ought to live in harmony with their voters during retirement.
“Keep in touch with people. For instance if you were in politics, check on those who worked for you, particularly the old women and men, since the older they become, the lonelier they get,” Mbaguta advises.
As we part, she says she has learnt to be more patient, resilient, and that prayer is key for victory.
AT A GLANCE
Prisca Sezi Mbaguta hails from Bugangari in Rukungiri District. She attended Immaculate Heart Girls High School, Nyakibale and Maryhill High School, Mbarara and Mt St Mary’s Namagunga, for her A-Level before joining Makerere University. While there, she embarked on a Bachelor of Political Science, and a master of Public Administration.