MOTORSPORT. There is no denying that Kalule was unlucky but the conclusion that Ugandan motorsport is at the crossroads on the account of the death of another fan cannot be dismissed as a simplified narrative.
That Susan Muwonge’s Subaru did not plough into Edwin Kalule at a stage of the Masaka Rally renowned for its rock face does not make the latter’s death any easier to cope with.
Kalule, whose spontaneous rise from motorsport buff to 2018 2WD champion has always been refracted through the lens of that that’s remarkable, took a protruding rock to the chest.
This all happened whilst he was trying to sidestep Muwonge’s Subaru that had veered off course.
Loved ones, friends, of which were many, had been holding out for a remarkable recovery after multiple injuries, including extensive fractures to the ribcage, left Kalule in a hospital bed. Green shoots were not in scant supply, but then as the four-day Easter holiday reached its tail end so - in tragically ironic style - did Kalule.
His death, as with all fatalities in the sport, raises again the question of how to best manage what essentially remains a difficult proposition - the managed coexistence between cars tailored to run at high speed and adoring fans in close proximity behind the taped area.
That Kalule was terrifically unlucky is not in doubt. His death cannot for sure be collapsed into the overarching narrative of rampaging fans the like of which we have not just seen many of recent but also buried six feet underground.
Yet - be that as it may be - the counsel from some not to play the blame game in the aftermath of Kalule’s passing simplifies, and even suppresses, a complicated story. The conclusion that Ugandan motorsport is at the crossroads on the account of the death of another fan cannot be dismissed as a simplified narrative.
Despite striving toward greater safety, rallies on public roads here in Uganda have gained notoriety after some well-documented deaths of fans. The delicate balance between a high degree of safety and public enjoyment continues to be elusive.
It hasn’t been down to the dearth of effort. A robust and proportionate framework for the authorisation of motorsport on public roads does exist.
But as the powers that be are starting to learn, the problem giving them a cold stare cannot simply be wished away. A sea change in attitudes and behaviours of fans (watching from vantage places that have been created, delineated and identified) cannot be instigated by the odd appeal by a clerk of course days before a rally gets underway.
A mindset shift can only see the light of day if an interactive process of intervention plays out over a drawn out period.
A well thought out campaign has to be run to ensure that the message of safety is crystallised in the mind of fans.
Safety means everything. Certainly not stumbling into the course in a drunken stupor. But also keeping a studied distance as you get a shot of your favourite driver.
Heavy-handed warnings at media conferences will do little to persuade fans from their disposition.
There are other ways, and it’s important that they be explored. Ways that unearth trust and mutual understanding.