Uganda could end up losing Namboole Stadium as a spate of land grabbing activities, inadequate finances and lack of productivity continue to make the Uganda’s biggest stadium a dungeon of despair. But if one word can describe Denis Hamson Obua, the Ajuri MP and new sports minister, who wants a new image for the sports sub-sector, it would be optimism. During a familiarisation tour of the stadium yesterday, he offered blueprints of hope including securing the thorny land title in a matter of weeks.
From operating from a meagre budget, unpaid rent arrears to fighting with encroachers, the stadium is in a deep hole.
Peeling the onion
Almost 20 per cent of the stadium land is occupied by encroachers, according to Robinah Kebba, the vice chairperson of the Mandela National Stadium board. When the stadium was completed in 1997, encumbrances over acquiring the title proved a fertile ground for encroachers to take up the redundant land.
“Earmarking the land and designating it as a national sporting facility is key for us. That is the conclusive evidence of the ownership of the land,” Obua said.
He says that inter-ministerial meetings have already been held between the Ministry of Finance and the Education Lands, the key shareholders of the stadium, as well as the Ministry of Education and Sports.
He explained that they have assurances from the Ministry of Lands and Uganda Land Commission that the stadium land title will be released before the end of March 2020.
Yet there are several bottlenecks Obua will have to deal with, some of which involve court cases.
Jamil Ssewanyana, the stadium managing director explains that there are a number of encroachers including NRA war veterans, who have assumed the land below the parking lot near Sports View Hotel.
“These ones (veterans) are very violent towards us,” Ssewanyana told the minister as he introduced a Kabuye, the chairman of Kireka Zone B LC1.
Sports View Hotel, who contest the fact that part of the swimming pool and main hotel building is established on Namboole land as well as former Kira Municipality Mayor Mamerito Mugerwa, whose shops in Bweyogerere as well as hotel partly sit on the stadium land. Uganda Electricity Distribution Company (UEDCL), also operates a power sub-station on stadium land without paying rent.
Yet others like Albert Muganga, a shareholder of Pioneer Easy Bus Company, have a five-year-old lease on part of the parking yard since 2017. Muganga, the proprietor of Kenlloyd Logistics Uganda Limited is a son in law to Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa. Pioneer’s title, is among those that were reportedly issued in error in 2007 by the Land Commission.
Although compensation was done in 1992, there are petitioners including Norah Nabagesera and Thomas Bazitya, who claim being duped in the process.
Rotting state of Namboole
According to Ssewanyana, the stadium gets seasonal income which limits their capacity to improve the facilities.
Kiprotich Hall, a 2,000-seater is in a dilapidated state. The more than 200 lights are an old model that keeps power bills too high. “We need a complete overhaul of Namboole,” Ssewanyana said.
According to Ssewanyana, the playing pitch is overused which makes it vulnerable to flooding.
Last year, Ssewanyana said that the stadium requires a funding of Shs15b, Shs2.5b of which will enable erecting a fence. The stadium also requires an allocation of Shs1.5b for renovations and regular maintenance of the stadium for a period of five years after that investment. Shs4b for acquisition and installation of surveillance cameras and spectator seats. Another Shs3.53b is required to pay National Social Security Fund Shs604m and Uganda Revenue Authority Shs2.93b, among other creditors.
The hotel facility too remains idle after Fortune Energy, a company owned by Capt Mike Mukula refused to pay Shs735m since 2016 in rent.
Obua the silver bullet?
With the title expected before the end of March this year, Obua says the plan is to fence off the land immediately. But this is easier said than done. The veterans, for instance, were originally eight yet the current estimates indicate 400 people living on that land. “We can utilise the engineering brigade of the UPDF for fencing,” he said.
“But it is an enormous effort that calls for collective responsibility. If we don’t secure Namboole, we may be shocked one day when the stadium is banned from hosting big football games. I will take the lead to knock on the doors and we will be able to make a contribution through lobbying and advocacy,” he added.
“As a country, we had priority areas but the sports sub-sector, should now be given more priority. We need a new image of sports in terms of infrastructure,” he adds.
Namboole at a glance
Name: Mandela National Stadium
Seating capacity: 45,202
Land area: 120 acres
Location: Bweyogerere, Kira Municipality
Funder: People’s Republic of China
Owner: Ministry of Finance (99% shares)