To a stranger, Bashir Kazibwe Mbaziira would describe himself as a determined young person who has gone through trials and tribulations to be who he is today.
“I am not just determined, but also focused about the legacy I want to build and leave behind,” he adds. He is the Member of Parliament (MP)-elect of Kawempe South where he won the majority vote.
He emerged victor in the election, but is not convinced that the general election was free and fair. “Freedom of speech was curtailed so much across the country that even when they said we were going to have scientific campaigns, the internet was shut down on the eve of elections,” explains Mbaziira. He trounced incumbent Mubarak Munyagwa of the Forum for Democratic Change.
He adds that it was unfair for media access to be restricted to those that have money, or are in the good books of government.
Mbaziira is a journalist, to which he owes his fame. “The media has really helped me to reach this far. When I talk about a huge following, all these people know me from radio, they listen to my shows, they watch my television programmes,” he explains.
He has capitalised on the media fame to engage audiences outside radio and television platforms. He has organised events in public spheres like Bat Valley Theatre.
Mbaziira is a filmmaker and also makes exploits of his storytelling gifts to enlighten audiences about current affairs.
“I have managed to get these people to support, believe and follow me, building the trust and confidence of the public in me. That huge following contributed so much to the success I have registered in politics. While on air, I stick to what matters to the common person,” he says.
Mbaziira is the outgoing president of the Uganda Journalist Association (UJA), the umbrella body that brings together journalists in the country. He says becoming an MP is an answered prayer from God.
“I am a prayerful person. I pray to the Almighty God for favour. Many times, He answers my prayers. When you have a personal touch and relationship with God, it helps you shed off the burdens that you would otherwise unnecessarily carry,” Mbaziira observes.
As routine, he starts his day with a prayer. Even when he was poisoned in 2019, he asked Allah to help revive his life. His walk to elective victory has been eye-opening in the sense that it has exposed him more to the people, their way of life and ultimately the challenges.
On the morning of our interview, a young man sits in his compound. He goes by the alias of Snipper, a street teenager from Bwaise who he met during the campaigns.
He was one of the petty criminals who he has talked out of crime. He is at the leader’s home to update him about the restaurant job he has recently found. To Kazibwe, understanding such unemployed youth, is the starting point of mitigating the challenges they face and offering a solution, one that starts with honest conversation and counselling.
“I identify with the common person. Before I make a decision that will affect boda boda riders, I would like to understand what they go through.” The 35-year-old has ideas about such people’s lives because it is the life he was exposed to right from a tender age under unideal situations.
“I was born and raised from a humble background. I did not get the opportunity to have family like dad and mum. I was seven years old when my father and mother separated. When I was in my Senior Six at Kibibi Secondary School, my father died in a car accident,” he recounts.
His mother died of HIV/Aids shortly after. He was raised by his grandmother, Janat Namuli, in Masaka District, where she taught him how to bake pancakes which they would sell in order to raise school fees to support his education until he sat for Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE).
After P7, Mbaziira went to live with his uncle in Kawempe, a Kampala suburb. He attended secondary school at Hawa Secondary School, Kawempe Muslim Secondary School, Kazo Hill College, Mende Kaleme Secondary School and Kibibi Secondary School.
“The reason I went through all these schools was due to challenges of paying school fees. It was not easy for my uncle to pay for me promptly because he had a big family to cater for. Finally, I made it and I was admitted to Islamic University in Uganda (IUIU), and now here I am,” he narrates.
The Kawempe South’s incoming legislator says staying in Kawempe most of his life has allowed him to experience and know, first-hand the issues affecting people in the communities.
“These people have been coming to me on the radio seeking answers, so once I air their concerns on the radio, I talk and counsel them where possible. In all this, I have earned their trust,” he says.
“There is a lot of oppression and repression from the system, from the government, and I have always stood on the side of the people no matter the circumstances. I have been working with a government media house, Vision Group, but despite that I knew that the people who listen to me are the ones who are being affected by the government. So I could not just sit in the studios and I talk good about the government and fail to address the issues of the common person.”
The nucleus of Kawempe South constitutes a number of slums, including Katanga, Ki-Mombasa, Kifumbira, areas in and around Mulago near Kamwokya, areas bordering Rubaga South and those in Makerere Kikoni.
There are many young people that are not empowered. As such, they feel hopeless and helpless.
“I would like to inspire these people by showing them that it is possible irrespective of whether they went to school or not. I would like to start self-help projects in which they can actively engage and earn a source of livelihood,” he says.
The youth question
Mbaziira also observes that if the young people are not empowered, they will become criminals.
“We are going to have cells and gangs of criminals who are going to terrorise all of us. We need to go to them and talk to them and understand why they are doing drugs, are into robbery and understand the environment in which they live,” the incoming MP argues.
“I would also like to lobby support and donations for our communities. Some people in Kawempe South are not working but have countless children in and outside marriage. These children are of school-going age. We need to have books and I am starting to distribute books within the constituency,” the 35-year-old explains.
But it is not only his constituents he will be looking out for as MP. Mbaziira will be voicing out the concerns of the fourth estate in the House.
“I understand the challenges journalists go through. I am looking forward to sitting on the ICT Committee of Parliament in order to rally the cause of the media industry. We need to have a minimum wage for the journalists. They are paid peanuts yet they work very hard,” he explains.
He is also rooting for a streamlined media fraternity. On the political front, he feels that the sitting government is acting under fear of what they don’t know about former presidential candidate and National Unity Platform (NUP) leader, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu.
“They are not sure of their safety and future once Kyagulanyi is left loose to go and meet his people. But we are not a violent generation. Our principal, Kyagulanyi, has been echoing this; we are a peaceful generation. We preach peace, and are law abiding people but the government is fearful because they know, they stole the election,” he argues, in conclusion.