Kakete lived a life of ambition, resilience

Mzee Vincent Ntalo Kakete Byatika at his home in Kivubuka, Jinja District. He breathed his last in the wee hours of Wednesday. Photo/Allan  Chekwech

What you need to know:

  • Family sources said doctors were treating Mzee Kakete for urinary tract infection as well as typhoid.
  • Even at that tender age, Kakete knew his heart’s desires. When Namilyango offered him Arts for A-Level, he knew that was not his calling and chose not to join the school. 

Tuesday was his last day. He rested on his favourite sofa in the living room and asked for his son, Dr Joseph Muvawala, and other children. 
Unknown to the family, the patriarch had intuitively wanted to spend his last hours with the people that mattered most in his life – his seven children. By midnight, when his son and other people arrived from Kampala, his health was fading. 

Mzee Vincent Ntalo Kakete Byatika  passed on a few minutes after; three days to his 80th birthday. 
Family sources said doctors were treating Mzee Kakete for urinary tract infection as well as typhoid. 
Mzee Kakete remained humble, sharp-witted and warm-hearted until he breathed his last in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. 

At about five-and-half feet, Kakete towered over many of his children and maintained an impressive weight. 
He usually wore a wide smile and was quick to stretch out his hand to welcome visitors and usher them into his well-kempt compound of more than 35 years in Kivubuka on the outskirts of Jinja City. 
To those close to him, Kakete was the ultimate gentleman. 

Dedicated civil servant
Francis Sekayiba, 80, was Kakete’s boss at the Civil Aviation Authority in the 1980s. He says the man from Kivubuka was extremely generous. “He bought a Volkswagen with an automatic transmission and I used to drive it all the time while we worked together. In fact, I drove it more than he did. I was his supervisor, but we were earnest friends, we depended on him at work. He was disciplined,” he said. 

Kakete’s first-born daughter Juliana Concepta Tasule remained his best friend and has only kind words for her first love. 
“He was my brother and my best friend. He always told me, of all things I did for him, it was parenting my siblings. I would call him for anything, and he would provide. We were close. He was really humble and loved education,” she says.  

To his daughter, Dr Veronica Wabukawo, her dad was ‘Mr dependable’. 
“My dad is the one person who never stole a dime. He was in positions to steal but he never took a bribe. People laughed at him. People would say you can give Ntalo a jerrycan full of paraffin and he returns the empty can after delivering the liquid.” 

For Dr Muvawala, Kakete was the man to go to any day. 
“He was very simple and loving. He really sacrificed all for us to go to school. One day he rented out the house we were living in at Entebbe and we slept in the boys quarters because he wanted to find fees for us. He thought about people more than he did about himself.” 
Kakete struggled to provide. And he did it decently. It is no wonder that two of his children attained PhDs, and others Master’s degrees. 

Pension woes
When this newspaper visited him at his home in Kivubuka in June, he was quick to pour out his frustration over his retirement benefits that he lost in the pension scam that plagued the Ministry of Public Service in 2012. 
Mzee Kakete pulled out a copy of Daily Monitor of November 1, 2012, which carried a list of ghost pension beneficiaries. In there was his mugshot, but affixed to a ghost name, Mulumba Ali. Mzee Kakate lost more than Shs100 million in the scam and died without seeing a penny. 

Pursuit of education
Such is a peep into the life of a man born on November 21, 1941, in Kitovu, Mafubira Sub-county in Jinja District. 
Born to Jeremiah Kakete and Florence Naikoba at the onset of World War II, Kakete would take on the name Ntalo, loosely translated as ‘‘war among the Bantu-speaking people’’. This name would symbolise the power of resilience he would marshal to provide a decent living to his family. 
 The Old Boy of the country’s ivy-league schools, including Jinja College and Namilyango College, started his engineering dream in 1951. 

Kakete had a humble beginning, starting off his early years at rural Kasaka Bulopa Primary School in Primary One. But he only spent there two years before joining Kamuli Boys Primary School between 1953 and 1956, progressing uninterrupted from Primary Three to Primary Six.

 The Primary Leaving Examinations were his launchpad for big things. Kakete posted a staggering 294 marks in four subjects, emerging among top performers in the district. 
He earned a place for Junior One at Jinja College from where he would again excel to join the elite Namilyango College for Senior One to Senior Four between 1958 and 1962. 

 Even at that tender age, Kakete knew his heart’s desires. When Namilyango offered him Arts for A-Level, he knew that was not his calling and chose not to join the school. Besides, the young Kakete had a particular difference with the school’s Principal, Fr Ceiphas. But more importantly, Kakete had bigger dreams. 
 He then opted for Uganda Polytechnic Kyambogo, then popularly known as (UPK), to enrol for a Mechanical Engineering course in 1963. The course was to last two-and-half years, but the lad, also brewing with teenage emotional conflict, had his heart elsewhere. 

Starting family
By this time, his eyes were also set on his teenage sweetheart, Claire Nangobi. 
Kakete had started interesting himself in Nangobi from his days in Namilyango. He had seen Nangobi in a church at home in Jinja and at drama functions in Namilyango, where his childhood crush starred. Soon notes started flying around so much that Nangobi’s father got wind of the budding chemistry.

This came at a cost for Nangobi. She was supposed to be a teacher at a demonstration school in Nkokonjeru, but because her father did not want Kakete, then still stationed in Kampala, to disturb the daughter, he got her a place at Budini Primary School in Iganga.

Nangobi was there for six months but their love story had bore a pregnancy. By mid 1965, they decided to get married. They would hurriedly tie the knot on August 28, 1965, because Nangobi risked losing her teaching job because it was a cardinal sin to have a pregnancy outside marriage. 
The prospect of having a family had jolted Kakete into the harsh reality of life so he started hustling to make ends meet. 

In the course of his hustles, a friend, he only identified as Byenkya – who had been plying his trade as a tutor at the Kenya Polytechnic in Nairobi – pointed him to a new door; Telecommunication Engineering.
 Kakete abandoned the Mechanical Engineering course to pursue his newfound dream.  
 On December 12, 1966, his new address became Nairobi, Kenya – then under President Jomo Kenyatta.
 Kakete only returned to Uganda when his wife gave birth to their first born daughter, Juliana Tasulewo , on February 7, 1966.

But the journey to Budini was a difficult one so Kakete looked for a place at Iganga Primary School, which was just on the highway, where the mother of his child could work and it would be easy to drop off the bus from Nairobi.
 Kakete spent two years at the Kenya Polytechnic before joining the Kenya School of Aviation to further his studies on Telecommunication Engineering.
 Life was a joy for him in the Kibera, Nairobi. He was pocketing KShs500 per month in his first year. The second year saw his earnings nearly double to KShs860 and in the third year, he was stashing his pockets with KShs1,200! By the end of his course, Kakete was walking away from work with a lumpsum of KShs8,400!

However, one event at a church in Kenya changed the story.
As Kakete walked to the altar to take Holy Communion, he was denied because the church was not sure of his religious standing. 
But eager to show that he was duly married, Kakete requested permission from Bugembe Cathedral for his wife to travel.
 Nangobi would then find herself in the Kibera area in I967. And two weeks after arrival in Nairobi, she started teaching at Makongeni Primary School.

The same year, Nangobi conceived her second child – the late Michael Kasira. But her heart was never in a foreign land, so she travelled back to Jinja.
 However, as fate would have it, in 1970, Kakete was transferred to Uganda to work at the Civil Aviation Authority in Entebbe, where he would spend the next five years. 
 In 1975, they were recalled to Nairobi for two more years.
 This time round, Kakete was now lecturing at the East African School of Aviation and upgraded to live in Nairobi’s upscale West Lands.

 He took Nangobi with him until the East African Community (EAC) collapsed in 1977 and they returned home.
But before the EAC collapsed, they had got wind of it so Nangobi was sent back home. When Nangobi arrived home, she decided to settle down in Jinja once and for all; she was tired of life outside Busoga. She helped establish the family home in Kivubuka and started teaching Mathematics at the neighbouring school, Kivubuka Primary School from 1980 to 1998, when she retired.

During this time, Kakete lived in Entebbe with his family but later mostly with his two sons Joseph and Stephen.
 This shift provided Kakete the opportunity to consolidate his family until his retirement at 60 years in 2001.
He has since retirement lived a quiet life in Kivubuka. Today, Kivubuka mourns their gallant son; one who helped shape many sons of the soil. 
 Mzee Kakete is survived by seven children and a wife. They are Juliana Tasulewo, Resty Tuta Ndhololwa, Leticia Babirye, Joseph Muvawala, Stephen Kakete Wankudu, Paulo Mubiwa, Veronica Wabukawo.
He will be buried on Saturday.

Children say

Juliana Tasulewo  
I tell all my problems to my daddy. He was my brother and my best friend. He always told me, of all things I did for him, it was parenting my siblings. I would call him for anything, and he would provide. We were close. He was really humble and loved education.”

Resty Tuta Ndhololwa  
I have learnt to be very committed to my children and everything else because of my father. I value education because of him. My father was very calm, he loved peace and was not easily provoked. He taught us to be very careful with what we say.  

Leticia Babirye 
He was the first in school on visitation day. He really sacrificed for us and for my 50 years on earth he never beat me. The only time he got upset about me was one day when we quarrelled with my sister Juliana because I had missed food. He punished me by confining me at one place for long.  

 Joseph Muvawala 
My father thought more about other people than himself. If he had money, he would give it out and remain with nothing. In fact, I used to give him money but he was never with money. I tried to find out. I realised he used to give it out to people. 

 Stephen Kakete 
I was always with my dad at home. He was a very patient and caring person. He still advised us on how to behave until he died.

Veronica Wabukawo
He was the kind of person that did everything that he could humanly do about his children. He taught us about responsibility. He disposed of everything to ensure we were in school. My father was always in our lives. He made sure we went to the best schools.  


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