On Monday, May 18, during a Cabinet meeting at State House Entebbe, President Museveni held a sharp knife in his right hand and demonstrated how 1kg of cooked posho can be consumed.
“I asked the kitchen staff to prepare 1kg of the maize flour from the food being distributed by the Covid-19 relief team. The conclusion is that 250gs is optimal and 2.6kgs for 10 days is possible. You can survive for quite some time,” the President said.
It is unclear if this ration was meant for a family of four, six or more, but it was worrying to see the President weighing and dividing a kilogramme of food in a country considered to be not only the Pearl of Africa, but bread basket of the East African region.
Mr Museveni concluded that 1kg of posho can sustain a large family with several children.
If perhaps Uganda had experienced several years of drought and was emerging out of a period of starvation or famine, then it could be said that this was a plausible explanation.
But while Uganda, as the rest of the world indeed, continues to struggle under the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, government is not shy to admit that we have no centralised emergency food reserve to cater for crises now, or for the foreseeable future.
In the same week that President Museveni demonstrated to families how to share a kilogramme of posho, it emerged that more than 300 members of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party had received Shs40 million from the national resource envelope.
According to media reports, the Shs40m was part of a “secret deal” which also includes a balance of Shs20m of the Shs200m previously promised as payment for their role in amending, supporting and removing the presidential age limit clause from the Constitution in 2017.
In Uganda, unfortunately priorities seem to be arranged to benefit a “selected few”. And yet there is no shortage of demonstration that daily survival during and after the Covid-19 lockdown is for the fittest.
The public purse is constantly open and money taken out to cater for individual interests, while elsewhere other African nations seem to be taking a different approach.
The government of Ghana, for example, has chosen to focus and direct attention to catering for the poor and vulnerable.
President Nana Akufo-Addo recently announced that his administration plans to implement the following measures for the next three months in the country that as of Friday evening had 6,486 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 31 deaths.
First, government will pay people’s water bills for April, May and June. Second, water supply tankers will also be made available to provide water to vulnerable communities. Third, health workers treating Covid-19 patients will receive 50 per cent boost to their basic pay.
Therefore, the Shs40m secret payments being dished out to some while other members of society are being told to share 1kg of posho seems out of sync with what other countries are doing.
Although President Museveni agreed and gave instructions that his salary should be reduced, thereby giving 50 per cent of his Shs3.6m salary to the Covid-19 taskforce, the startling reality may be a case of giving with one hand and taking away with the other.
According to Nobel Prize winner José Saramago, “That’s life, what it gives with one hand one day, it takes away with the other.”
The rationing of 1kg of posho among families and yet some people are taking Shs40m of taxpayers’ money is unfair and unjustifiable.
Ms Victoria Nyeko is a media commentator.