And now… a Presidential Handshake Control Unit!

Sunday March 12 2017

Andrew Mwenda

Andrew Mwenda 

By Alan Tacca

I am fascinated by the mental rounds on which lawyers take the witness during cross-examination.
Before being trapped in his box, the witness often believes he can weave his tale and come out shining. The methodical dance by which a gifted lawyer punctures and cuts down an otherwise smart witness is an intriguing art form.
The ongoing oil-related parliamentary probe into a haul of Shs6 billion is not a trial, but its sessions, chaired by Mr Abdu Katuntu, are quite engrossing.
In the witness box, people who talk a lot, and fast, risk confusing pace with substance, exposing themselves to learned predators.
The high profile journalist, Andrew Mwenda, his mouth a rifle, was a perfect match against a cool – almost haughty – Abdu Katuntu, who had probably already decided the size Mr Mwenda should be after the trimming had been done.
The New Vision of March 7 reproduced part of the recent exchange between Mr Mwenda and Mr Katuntu. The paper also printed a photograph of an emotion-packed Mwenda, and another with Katuntu donning an ironic smile, reflecting the two temperaments.
During their encounter, Katuntu laboured to make Mwenda clearly understand the issue; which was (and is) whether the presidential handshake of Shs6 billion was based on a known policy and followed correct procedure; or was an arbitrary and harmful action.
Mr Mwenda (not known as a beneficiary) alleged that there were people who said the beneficiaries were under enormous pressure from some people in government to drop the (capital gains tax) claim against Heritage; to which Katuntu replied that none of the beneficiaries who had testified had reported such pressure.
And unless Mwenda produced evidence to back his claim, his testimony was of little value to the inquiry. Or – maybe – amounted to investigative gossip?
Mwenda also argued that because a lot of budgeted money was stolen by other officials in other situations, these good people in the oil case deserved special appreciation.
Katuntu countered that if it was wrong to steal budgeted money, how could it be right that the money in this case was removed before it was even budgeted?
That must be a high stage in the development of the vampire state; the ability to remove money (before) its removal can be questioned.
But why squander the resource of brilliant people like Katuntu and Mwenda?
Executive practice could repeat its departure from known policy and established procedure, since Uganda is teeming with vampires constantly plotting to exploit a generous ruler who is too busy to study every case in detail. Why not develop a hi-tech gadget to aid the President?
The Concept: A piece of digital hardware on which the President’s cash handouts over the last 10 years are listed, indicating those that have and have not been fulfilled.
Filed, too, are the implied (financial) numbers computed from the current national Budget.
Filed, too, is a map of the citizens’ socio-economic condition.
Filed also are a range of constitutional alarm and barrier-wall features.
Applying the latest algorithmic wizardry, installed software would rapidly survey the data and resolve whether a cash handout the President had just announced was fair, legal and viable. (Voice recognition technology is of course on board.)
Linked to State House, Parliament, Finance and the Auditor General, when the gadget clears or blocks a presidential gift (wherever he announces it), the signal is instantly fired to those destinations.
The gadget would be small enough to be tucked between the President’s head and his hat.
In future, brain/computer interface neuro-technology will enable the gadget to send the ‘clear’ or ‘block’ signal a couple of seconds (before) the President actually utters the offer!
This is not science fiction. It can be done. Instead of paying billions of Shillings to all sorts of white collar crooks masquerading as do-gooders, we can contract a specialist firm in Silicon Valley to get a working system in place.
The gadget described is the Presidential Handshake Control Unit (PHCU). Any patents pending? No! This is patriotism.
Plan B: The NRM government can act in such a way that Ugandans do not wish they were ruled by robots.

Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator.