KCCA, Sheraton hotel locked in gardens row

Public park. Sheraton Gardens also known as Jubilee Gardens in Kampala, which KCCA say must be opened to the general public. PHOTO BY ISMAIL KEZAALA

What you need to know:

  • Query. Sheraton Kampala Hotel’s management contract over Sheraton Gardens, a public park, expired years ago and Kampala Capital City Authority did not renew it.
  • Sunday Monitor’s Amos Ngomwoya enquires into why the hotel still monopolises the gardens and locks out members of the public.

KAMPALA. Sheraton Gardens, also known as Jubilee Gardens, is one of Kampala’s public parks and should ordinarily be open to the public.
But it remains a contentious matter at City Hall, with the political leadership asking questions why it continues to be a hired out to members of the public by Sheraton Hotel.
Sheraton hotel started managing the gardens in 2000 after signing a 10-year tenancy agreement with the then Kampala City Council (KCC), the predecessor of Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA).
Although KCCA terminated the contract in 2013, the former still manages the gardens in a manner, which city leaders say, is suspicious. According to information from KCCA, the gardens measure three acres.
Kampala City Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago is one of those wondering how the gardens still remain under the control of Sheraton hotel.
He said KCCA doesn’t collect any revenue from the management of the gardens yet lots of money is made out of them by renting out the space for events.
“As far as I know, there is no money that is remitted to KCCA by Sheraton hotel for using our gardens. They have commercialised it for their interests and as of now, we don’t know who gets what of the money collected. It’s a total absurdity,” Mr Lukwago said.

Put park to better use
Mr Lukwago said the gardens can be put to better use.
“There is no way we can have such monuments located in a forest of concrete and mortar because they have to be visible. For instance, the Impala symbolises our heritage as Kampala and I have always thought that we should have it centrally located. It’s an idea that I will sell to my colleagues in the authority,” he said.
KCCA recently entered into partnership with Uganda Wild Life Authority to erect Impala and Chimpazee monuments in the city.
The deal, which is worth Shs400m, will see the Impala monument erected along Kimathi Avenue and the chimpanzee monument erected along Speke Road.
Mr Kennedy Okello, the KCCA chairperson of engineering and technical services, blamed KCCA for giving out public parks without clear management contracts, saying such irregularities bring losses to the institution.
Apart from the Sheraton Gardens, Mr Okello points at the Children’s Park in Kamwokya, where businessman Umar Mandela set up a petrol station. To reclaim these parks, Mr Okello says, KCCA must improve their management capacity to see that all the parks are managed and maintained by the institution.
Mr Henry Nsubuga, a resident of Kampala, said: “Kampala is a chaotic place but even the parks where we could be spending leisure time are not accessible”.
When contacted, the management of Sheraton hotel declined to comment on the matter, referring this reporter to KCCA.
Ms Juliet Bukirwa Muwanguzi, the KCCA acting manager of public and corporate affairs, told Sunday Monitor that they are currently engaging the management of Sheraton hotel to ensure that the gardens are made accessible to the public for recreational purposes.
“When KCCA came in, we realised that the money which was contained in the first tenancy agreement with our predecessors wasn’t worth the price of the three acres of land and this compelled us to terminate their contract. However, we are currently reviewing their demand of getting another contract because as KCCA, we need these gardens to be a public good,” she said.
Ms Bukirwa revealed that they also realised that some KCC officials then had illegally extended to Sheraton another 10-year contract to manage the gardens without the approval of the contracts committee.
She noted that sorting out such irregularities have partly caused some delays as far as streamlining the management of the gardens is concerned.Asked about why Sheraton doesn’t allow the public to access the gardens, Ms Muwanguzi noted that they could be doing it for security purposes of the hotel.
“We have gone back to the drawing board to see how we can streamline the management of these gardens, looking at the market value of the land, their security concerns and also how the public can access the gardens because Sheraton’s role is to manage them,” she said.
But Mr Muwanguzi couldn’t agree nor deny whether Sheraton hasn’t been remitting any revenue to KCCA ever since their tenancy agreement to manage the gardens was terminated. The land on which Sheraton Gardens sits was donated to KCC by Nanji Khalidas Mehta, a legislator in the first Parliament, as a public park for recreational activities.

Other parks
Other parks in the city that belong to KCCA are Centenary Park, Constitution Square, Pan African Park, Children’s Park in Kamwokya, Railway Grounds and Kiswa Park.
But Mr Lukwago said all the parks have lost value because there is no clear policy to manage them.
He said the Constitution Square has turned into a police and army barracks yet it’s supposed to be freely left out for public use.
Mr Lukwago said if KCCA can’t directly control city parks, they should be given out to contractors with clear terms and conditions.

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