Yesterday morning, the Bushenyi community and the western region woke up to sad news of the passing on of elder Lay Canon Zabron Rushambuza, who died aged 93 at his home in Ntungamo ward, Nyakabirizi Division of Bushenyi-Ishaka Municipality.
Canon Rushambuza succumbed to diabetes and high blood pressure at about 3am on Sunday after 20 years of battling the ailment.
His son, Mr Obadia Ntebekeine Rushambuza said his father died a few hours after the giveaway party of his granddaughter, Ms Ingrid Karungi, Ntebekeine ’s daughter. He said during the ceremony, the deceased received guests and gifts.
By 10am yesterday when Daily Monitor visited the deceased’s home, hundreds of mourners gathered to commiserate with the family and pay tribute.
Benevolent, magnanimous, patriotic, philanthropist, generous, God-fearing and hard working were the adjectives used to describe Rushambuza’s life and person.
Can Rushambuza was born at Kantojo in Kyeizooba, Bushenyi District in 1927 to Mitimbo, the head of the Bagoma Clan, the rulers of Igara chiefdom under the great Ankole Kingdom.
He grew up in the royal palace of Igara chiefdom. His father can be traced in the history of Igara being the custodian of the royal regalia and the drum known as Kihoza.
Rushambuza has three sons and one daughter. Six others are deceased. He has left behind 65 grandchildren and 50 great grandchildren.
Rushambuza lost his father when he was 16 years old, setting him to face challenges and take up responsibilities early. This inspired him to work hard to survive. He attended basic formal education which enabled him get outside his father’s home and go to work.
At 18 years, Rushambuza left for Buganda to work for a living, but suffered a disappointment after he was cheated by his masters in Mityana. He packed his belongings and returned home in Igara.
On his way back to Bushenyi in 1947, he met Christian missionaries whom he stayed with. They taught him construction skills. A year later, he married his wife, Jaires Rushambuza with whom they had 10 children.
With his vocational skills, Rushambuza established a construction company in 1960s, where he employed thousands of workers. His company owned trucks and other vehicles in the transport industry with a brand name Ai Mukama (Oh God!), a local phrase of expression of surprise rewards God had brought to him.
The illustrious Rushambuza worked his way to fame among the Ankole-Kigezi community because of his wealth. He became a local icon as he pioneered a lot of things. He was among the first people to own Friesian cows in Bushenyi and Ankole. His wife Jaires passed away in 2002 but he did not remarry. At the time of death, Rushambuza was carrying out construction works in Ishaka town.
Lay Can Rushambuza was a witty and humorous person.
Mr Meshach Nuwabeine, a resident of Bushenyi describes Rushambuza as a man of exceeding love and joy.
“In times of sorrow, happiness, he would smile and give thanks to God. Many people never understood why he said Ai Mukama. Ai Mukama was his one way of surrendering everything to God, his creator, including himself, his family and those under his care,” Nuwabaine said.
Rushambuza commanded respect and his fame spread like wild fire to many areas in and outside Bushenyi. By the time of his death, he was head of the Bagoma clan, quite instrumental in promoting unity among his people.
He left large tracts of land, and prosperous family.
Rushambuza was a lay canon in West Ankole Diocese of Church of Uganda. He has participated in the construction of many churches in Bushenyi and Ankole Sub-region.
His contribution to the Church led Christians to make him a life head of laity for his local Church, St Stephen Church Nyakabirizi.
He is remembered for surrendering his land for construction and reconstruction of his local church whose building materials he provided in 1957 and 1985, respectively. After many years, his family dismantled the old church and erected a new one.
Rushambuza catered for church servants in West Ankole Diocese by advocating for their welfare and supporting their welfare.
He was described by Bishop of West Ankole Diocese, Rt Rev Johnson Twinomujuni as a Christian who has loved God and served his Church.
“Maama Joy and I thank God that we were able to come and pray for him before he left. We thank God for saving Lay Canon Rushambuza and for giving him a long and fruitful life. His peaceful rest has also become an additional token. Indeed, blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. To God be the glory!” Bishop Twinomujuni said.
Rev Can John Tumwine Kateeba, a senior clergy in West Ankole Diocese, who served as a lay reader at Rushambuza’s local church, described him as a dedicated Christian.
What remains of Rushambuza is a strong legacy, legion of children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, who have to build from what their father has left including love, hard work, philanthropy.
Rushambuza is described as a dedicated family man, who loved his wife. Despite his old age and poor health, he would also check on his grandchildren. His eldest son, Mr Obadia Ntebekeine Rushambuza describes him as a great father, who was always there for his family.
‘‘Mzee loved us so much as family and children and most importantly, the Church. He was a saved man. He got saved in 1948 because of the East African Revival which originated from Kigezi. The only thing he believed in so much was the Church. He loved his children and wife to the maximum and I had never seen a loving father like my dad,” Mr Ntebekeine said. He added: “He cared for us, and we never lacked anything.
By the time we were born, he was already well-off. In 1960, he already had a lorry and was the first man to put up a brick factory in the whole of Igara County. We have missed a very great man. This is a man who would carry us on his back before he bought a bicycle and later a car.” Mr Winstone Katushabe, a relative, said Rushambuza provided a huge foundation for his family and left his children well connected in different parts of the world, something that has given them ability to develop and establish themselves.