Frank M. Gashumba: The business enigma

One of the photos depicting Gashumba’s different faces. Photo sourced by Betty Ndagire.

What you need to know:

In our new series, we shall bring you close to the goingson in the social and business life of some of Kampala’s high profile people and businesses. In this edition, Betty Ndagire brings you closer to Frank Malingumu Gashumba’s social, business and personal life.

On Twitter and other social sites, Frank Malingumu Gashumba profiles himself as a social activist, motivational speaker and entrepreneur, whose purpose in life is driven by Mahatma Gandhi’s quote, “I believe in self-empowerment. Be the change you want to see in the world”.
His is a life masked in controversies but avidly admired by many not considering that they are at times left guessing on who the real Gashumba is.
To his haters, as he often brands them, Gashumba is a braggart who will seize any opportunity to seek attention.

But who is Gashumba?
Born on December 3, 1974 in Villa Maria, Masaka District, Gashumba is a single father of two daughters, and is a Ugandan of Rwandan origin.
He attended St Francis Primary School in Masaka, before moving to Aga Khan Senior Secondary (Masaka). In 1996, he graduated from Nkumba University where he attained a Bachelors degree in Business Administration.
He spent much of his early life in Masaka before moving to Kampala in the early 90s, where he cut into Kampala’s Masaka clique, famous for its success stories.
Between 1996 and 1998, Gashumba worked for the Latter Day Saints Church, before lifting the lid on his entrepreneurship journey in 1997.
Gashumba is a firm believer in hard work and has on several occasions, lashed out at the showy life of some Ugandans, saying: “Rich people stay rich by living like they are broke and broke people stay broke by living like they are billionaires.”
He has attempted to shape Uganda through his loose association - National Action for Awakening Uganda - but has won himself plenty of critics (read enemies), who say he is just but a loud mouth.
His is a life purposed at becoming an accentuated billionaire, whose dream, he says “is to donate a percentage of my fortune to the poor”.

Frank Gashumba the businessman
In 1997, Gashumba cut his teeth into the entrepreneurship journey, opening Mali Mixed Farm in Masaka. This, as he says, was the entry to a longtime dream that would later see him open a consortium of companies under the Mali Group.
In 1998, he launched Mali Group of Companies which has morphed into courier, transport and mineral exploration companies.
Between 1998 and 2000, he founded Sarafina Safaris and Sarafina Skills Services, which offer tour and travel services as well as skills development. He is also engaged in mineral exploration under Bbunda Holdings, founded in the early 2000s.
Gashumba also has other investments under Great Lakes Investments, where he was the chief executive officer up to 2001 and Sarafina Water in DR Congo, which he founded in 2010.
When asked how much he earns from his businesses Gashumba said: “I earn enough to keep me out of elective politics.”

His brush with the law
In February 2011 Gashumba was fined Shs1m after he was convicted for attempting to defraud Dfcu Bank of more than Shs178m. Court sitting at Buganda Road found Gashumba had, though unsuccessfully, tried to conspire to defraud the bank.
However, he told this reporter an appeal which he lodged before the High Court cleared him and even refunded his money. However, we could not readily verify the claims.
On October 3, 2011, he was arrested again and detained at Central Police Station, Kampala for attempting to defraud a Turkish firm.
It was alleged that Gashumba together with John Batte, alias Otim, and Timothy Ssebuguzi had conspired to defraud Akin CakMark of more than $28m (Shs84b) by uttering false documents for the supply of 58 fire trucks to the government of Uganda.
However, the trio was later acquitted for lack of evidence.
Earlier, between 2006 and 2008, Gashumba was charged on different counts before the Buganda Road Court for forgery, obtaining money by false pretence and malicious damage of property. But he said these cases were dismissed for want of prosecution.
Asked what he feels about his different appearances in court, Gashumba said: “As a man, I am assured of three things, being incarcerated, paying taxes and dying. These give me hope to stand up every time I fall.”

Gashumba the social critic
He has carved himself into Kampala’s reference of morality, preaching about marriage, not considering he lives a single life. Gashumba also demonises Kampala’s showy lifestyle which he says has driven many into a life of hopelessness.
His critics say he is a know-it-all and has a comment on almost every subject. He revers Kampala’s political class, which he despises for being ignorant and vile liars.
In the late 2000s, he founded National Action for Awakening of Ugandans that he has used as a platform to drive his agenda to arouse Ugandans with a view of determining their own destiny, even as many view him as a schemer looking for funding from donours.
Through his activism, he has enjoyed plenty of airplay and newspaper columns becoming a major reference and an aspiration to many.
However, he has also won himself critics that on several occasions he has been quoted saying he fears that he will either be killed or thrown into prison one day.
He has also carved out himself as a philanthropist, who in the early 2000s, mobilised funds for the surgery of Aisha Nabukeera who had sustained burns inflicted on her by her step mother.

Gashumba viewed in the lenses of a close watcher
According to Muhammad Ayub, a Kampala businessman, he has up to today never understood Gashumba since he first met him at California Bar in Nakasero, downtown Kampala, in 1998.
“I saw him for close to two years but I never at any one time understood him. I can’t say he was my friend but I vividly remember him crisscrossing between Maria’s Galleria and California Bar where we could sometimes play a game of pool together. Just like not he was a chatty man then who would have an opinion on anything,” he says.
“I was in my Senior Four vacation then but if I can remember, people like John Ssozi, aka Emperor Orlando, and Henry Rota (DJ Rota, who Gashumba says is his brother) were part of the group that used to hang around that bar then.”
“He was a loud man who was never afraid of speaking his mind. He would say anything as is.”
“I have heard many stories about Gashumba but some are imaginations because as far as I have known, he has been a well-off man, because by the time I saw him in 1998 he was already driving a Mercedes Benz which by any standard then, was a high class car.”
“However, I would be a big liar if I told you I know his source of income,” Ayub concludes.

Gashumba tells his story

Mali Group of Companies has a number of sub-groups for which I am the chairman. These include Mali Mixed Farm, the agriculture arm, Sarafina Skills Services, which places job seekers in oversees employment and Sarafina Safaris, a transport and tours and travel firm.
“We have secured job placements for more than 1,700 Ugandans. But some have disappointed us since they abscond from the work we took them to do and start pursing deals and prostitution.”
His business has other sub-groups, among them Iranda Holdings (real estate) and Bbunda Holdings, a gold and timber dealership in DR Congo.
According to Gashumba, people have had so many false claims against him including accusations of using Nabukeera’s money to buy a Mercedes Benz: “ the time I found that girl, I already had the Benz. My father had three cars an Isuzu, Bedford and Bata by the time I started crawling . So wealth runs in the family.”
He says his haters have spread a lot of lies and for those who pass negative claims unknowingly he forgives them but “those who hate me, I hate you more”.
He says he is one of the largest organic social media following in Uganda, though “I have never sent a request to anyone”.
”When you follow Gashumba it shows you know what you want. If you desire to be brave like lions, you train with them but not with goats,” he concludes.
According to Gashumba, he was born in Villa Maria, Masaka District where civilisation in Uganda started. He says while in Masaka he would only walk on tarmac.
He says he first visited Kampala when he was in Primary Seven and was amazed by how the city looked lovely with so many lights.

Frank Malingumu Gashumba, chairman mali group of companies
Age. 41
Background. Gashumba, who was born in Villa Maria, Masaka District in 1974, is a single father of two daughters and a Ugandan of Rwandan origin.
Education. He attended St Francis Primary School, before moving to Aga Khan Senior Secondary, Masaka. In 1996 he graduated from Nkumba University where he attained a bachelors degree in Business Administration.
Work. He is the chairman of Mali Group of Companies, which has a consortium of about five companies.