A police spokesman has said he was not immediately able to say anything about investigations into sexual abuse accusations pending against the city tycoon who is at the heart of an alleged bribery scandal which saw a junior minister arrested early on Saturday.
Mr Emilian Kayima, the spokesman for Kampala Metropolitan Police, told Sunday Monitor that he would only be able to say anything about the case which was filed against Mr Mohammed Hamid last year by Monday.
“I need to get myself abreast with that. It is true there was that case in which Mr Hamid was being accused but we shall provide those details by Monday,” he said.
Hamid is the boss at Aya Group, the proprietors of the Hilton Hotel in Kampala. One of his former employees alleges that he sexually harassed and molested her before she was summarily sacked last year, prompting her to take up the matter with the police.
Days after the story of this accusation went public, police on Saturday arrested and detained three people including a State Minister, for allegedly receiving a Shs30 million bribe from the businessman.
“The police this afternoon arrested Hon. Herbert Kabafunzaki, the state minister for labour, employment and industrial relations who is also the MP Rukiga County in Kabale district. He is arrested together with Mr Brian Mugabo, a clearing agent. He was allegedly soliciting a bribe from the proprietor of Aya Group,” Mr Kayima said in a statement.
Together with a third man believed to be the minister’s bodyguard, both men were being held at Central Police Station in Kampala on Saturday evening.
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In photos widely circulated on social media, Mr Kabafunzaki , donning a grey jacket and a blue stripped shirt is seen sitting on a chair at the Kampala Serena Hotel with arms folded as individuals believed to be police officers go about collecting evidence of the alleged bribe. On the table in front of him are Shs50,000 notes believed to be part of the alleged bribe money.
In trying to defend himself from the accusations of pocketing a bribe from Muhammad Hamid Muhammad, the Aya Group Chairman, Mr Kabafunzaki said, as police whisked him away: “It’s a hoax I didn’t do anything, the cameras are there I don’t do anything.”
But Mr Hamid told journalists at Kampala Serena Hotel that when the minister asked for the money, he contacted the president through his personal assistant and the president said, “give him the money and we have him arrested.”
“We agreed to meet at 2:00pm at Kampala Serena Hotel and he came. He had asked for Shs25 million to clear our [Aya Group] image on the sexual harassment allegations and another Shs5million to call a press conference…. We gave him Shs5million as deposit but he insisted that we should give him at least Shs10 million. Before we agreed on the additional amount, the police officers came in and arrested him.”
When contacted to confirm or deny president Museveni’s involvement in the arrest of the minister, Senior Presidential Press Secretary Don Wanyama said: “When the President said this is Kisanja Hakuna Mchezo this is what he meant. The message is clear, the fight against corruption has been taken to a new high and there are no sacred cows. Once you're involved, you'll be arrested irrespective of position. Corrupt government officials have been put on notice.”
Sexual assault case
Just this week, Mr Kabafunzaki was reported to have sought to help the woman who alleges that she was sexually assaulted by Hamid.
In a story aired on NTV Uganda, the woman narrated that two weeks after she started working at the Hilton Hotel in November 2016, Hamid would call her into his office and pretend to be asking for an update on an issue but would then close the door and start molesting her.
Mr Hamid allegedly turned violent after she resisted repeated sexual attacks on her.
“He stormed into the office, came and beat me and bruised my mouth. I was bleeding and he was boxing me and punching me and shouting all sorts of insults,” the woman says in the TV report
But when she reported the matter to police no action was taken despite recording her statement, she said.
The woman then approached Mr Kabafunzaki who, among other things went to the Hilton Hotel to inspect working conditions at the hotel which is still under construction.
Hamid denied the sexual harassment allegations.
“As a public figure, people can try to talk to get money from us and blackmailing us which is not right especially where we have employed more than 2,000 people in the last nine years,” Hamid said.
In the NTV story, he also speaks about a clearing agent whom he claims approached them and demanded to be paid $10,000 to help the woman’s case against him to go away.
Wanyama added that the government will arrest whoever is involved in corrupt acts, observing that in light of Saturday’s events Mr Kabafunzaki should not be holding ministerial office now. “Whoever is found in the acts of corruption will be arrested and prosecuted,” he said.
“If he is ultimately convicted, he definitely won’t retain his ministerial position. But also, he has a moral obligation to step aside as the investigations continue”.
The Executive Director at the Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda, Ms Cissy Kagaba has welcomed the arrest of the minister.
“Let me hope the case will be properly investigated and prosecuted ,” she said.
Reported by Stephen Kafeero, Risdel Kasasira, Ibrahim Manzil & Joseph Kato