What you need to know:
- Today, Maria Flo is one of the fastest-growing hotels in Masaka City and a frequent venue for major events; including music concerts and conferences.
In 1987, the late Antanansius Bazzekuketta, 76, relocated from Kampala City to Masaka, an idea some of his business associates viewed as a miscalculation.
At that time, Bazzekuketta’s dream was to start a hotel business, which could equally compete with the posh hotels in in Kampala City.
He mobilised resources and later came up with the name Maria Flo, a combination of his wife’s name Maria and his third last born Florence Nabuuma Kabenge.
His two residential houses in Mutuba Gardens adjacent to Brovad Hotel is what he converted into present day Maria Flo Hotel.
Bazzekuketta died in his sleep last Saturday in one of the hotel rooms where he has occasionally been staying.
By the time of his death, Mzee Antanansi, as he is fondly called by his peers and business partners, had grown his hotel business to admirable standards.
In the last six years, the hotel, which he started in just two residential houses, has managed to get two imposing storeyed apartments and it is still expanding, through buying off neighbours owning residential houses in the vicinity.
Today, Maria Flo is one of the fastest-growing hotels in Masaka City and a frequent venue for major events; including music concerts and conferences.
Bazzekuketta has been a friendly and down-to-earth entrepreneur. This is reflected in the way he ran his hotel business.
“He [Antanansi] loved his business, on many occasions, the mzee could move with the hotel staff to offer outside catering services at different venues,” Mr Richard Musisi, the executive director of Masaka Association of Disabled Persons Living with HIV/Aids (MADIPHA), who has been a regular customer at the hotel, says.
“Even at the hotel, he could regularly participate in serving guests during ceremonies, workshops or conferences, his selfless bid to serve has indeed been immeasurable,” he adds.
He was in real estate business, owning both commercial and residential buildings in Kampala and Masaka.
Ms Kabenge says her father was a responsible and lovely father who wholeheartedly took care of his family.
“It was difficult to know who he [dad] loved most, it is true we are still reeling in shock following his untimely departure, but happy that he has left after giving us a decent education and we are mature enough to carry on his legacy,” she says. Mr Ivan Nakibinge, the manager of Maria Flo Hotel, says his boss decided to start up a hotel after realising a gap in accommodation facilities in the area.
“We learnt recently from him that he had earlier purchased this piece of land for a hotel project before running to exile in Kenya in the late 1970s.When he returned, he embarked on developing it, starting with the first phase of the hotel project .It is from this initial structure that Mzee capitalised on to expand the hotel to a 3-star level we all see today,” he says.
Some have eulogised him as a ‘heavyweight’ in the hotel business in Masaka.
“He has been one of the members of Masaka business community who is cooperative and supportive towards any social cause for the wellbeing and livelihood of the people,” Mr Benon Mugarura, the proprietor of Zebra Hotel Masaka, says. “As hoteliers in Masaka, we have indeed lost a giant, a self-driven and vibrant member who kept us moving even during Covid-19 times, most importantly, he has been teaching us (hotel owners) diversification of hotel services to amass more profits,” he says.
Ms Sarah Kiyimba, the proprietor of Brovad Hotel, says news about Bazzekuketta’s death struck her like thunderbolt partly because she least expected it, but largely because he was not just a business associate, but also a friend she greatly admired.
“I was shocked when I received that sad news because he was not sick, he has been a very close friend and we used to share business ideas on many occasions. Sometimes, we could give each other business in case there is shortage of hotel rooms and we are going to miss him as hoteliers,” she says.
Bazzekuketta was a religious man and is among three individuals who built Bulando Catholic Church near his village home.
Mr Swaibu Sulambaya, a Masaka rights activist, praised the deceased for being exemplary and generous and a man of competence and character.
“Mzee Antanansi has been a mentor, a colleague and friend to many. He was down-to-earth, generous, modest and humble and he will be missed,” he says.
He is survived by a wife and nine children.
According to the burial programme released by the family, there is a vigil at his residence in Rubaga, a Kampala suburb, and a requiem mass will be at Rubaga Cathedral on Thursday.
He will be laid to rest at his ancestral home at Bulando Village, Masaka District on Friday.
Before venturing into the hotel business, Mzee Bazzekuketta was a salesman for Singer Company, selling sewing machines between 1967 and 1969.
He later worked as an insurance agent in a British American Insurance Company between 1970 and 1975. In the same year, he started his own businesses such as importation of sugar jaggery, beer, transport business owning a fleet of trailers and A.B Steel Products Ltd, which was dealing in a wide range of building materials.
In 1977, he went into exile to Nairobi, Kenya, where he continued doing business. He later joined the struggle to remove President Idi Amin from power and returned to Uganda in 1979 after his government was toppled.
Additional reporting Richard Kyanjo