Ali Mukalazi succumbed to kidney failure at Naguru Hospital on November 17, aged 86. PHOTO/COURTESY

|

Mukalazi: Construction magnate par excellence

What you need to know:

  • Mukalazi’s company has overseen the construction of many top buildings and other works since its founding in the 1970s.

Hajj Ali Mukalazi, whose impact on the construction of various infrastructure in Uganda cannot go unnoticed, passed on in Naguru Hospital due to kidney failure on November 17, aged 86.

When he founded Mukalazi Technical Services, he had no idea that the construction company would oversee several infrastructural developments in the early 1970s.

Born in 1936, Mukalazi was the first of Rajabu Nsubuga and Yunia Namaloga’s two children. He attended Bombo Sudanese Primary School (current day Bombo Umea Primary School) before joining Kibuli SS for Junior One and Two. He thereafter crossed over to Kibuli Technical school and later to Nanziga, where he trained as a primary school teacher before upgrading to secondary teaching.

After school, he engaged in politics and joined Kabaka Yekka (KY), a monarchist political movement and party in Uganda then. When KY entered an alliance with Milton Obote’s Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC), he established a life-changing friendship. His closeness and loyalty to Obote coupled with his skills from technical school earned him a slot in the Kampala City Council. He was to serve as the acting in charge for renovations in the capital.

Not long after, he moved to America to further his technical skills in engineering. Upon his return, Obote elevated him to head of constructions in the city council. He was, however, forced to quit when Idi Amin overthrew the government in 1971.

Making of a company

Mukalazi opened up his private construction out of frustration of losing his city council job. His decision was further fuelled by Amin’s expulsion of Asians from Uganda. This status quo gave him more mileage and market since the previous constructors were mainly Asians. Incorporated in 1973, Mukalazi Technical Services has been in operation for close to five decades. It deals mainly in building and road construction works, manufacturing of concrete products (culverts, blocks, barricades and poles) and their transportation.

The company is also the pioneer occupant of Ntinda Industrial area. Its major breakthrough came in 1975 during the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) summit that was hosted in Uganda. Amin commissioned Mukalazi Technical Services to renovate numerous roads as well as construct others within the city and its neighbourhood.

Rise of Mukalazi

During the Obote II regime, Mukalazi was hired to give a facelift to Nyakisharara Airfield in Bushenyi District. Obote’s homecoming celebrations were intended to be faultless, and Mukalazi ensured this.

Mukalazi’s infrastructural development background saw him rub shoulders with the bush war heroes . He went on to hold positions of influence and power in the central government. This is because he was a renown developer that was looked at as one to offer lasting solutions to the infrastructural developments in their system.  Mukalazi used his ties with those in power to bid for projects in government that were offered in his favour and hence the company’s assured growth.

Big-hearted patriot
According to Dauda Mukalazi, the current director at Mukalazi Technical Services and son of the late, his father was a good-hearted man, who believed in team work. He reminisces about an incident in the early 1980s where the late called back his colleague Eng Abdu Kagga of Kagga and Partners Limited who was then the City Engineer for Nairobi City. Mukalazi wanted the two to jointly work on construction projects he had been contracted to do in Uganda. He felt Eng Kagga needed to contribute to the development of his country instead of offering services to a foreign city and country, something that further proved a  patriotic heart for his country.

Mahamoud Nsubuga, a younger brother of the deceased speaks fondly of him. As one of the biggest landlords with more than 40 acres of land in Bukoto, Nsubuga explains that many people occupy Mzee Mukalazi’s land illegally but not at any point did he evict any squatter.

“He kept telling people on his land to work hard, find resources and pay him off,” Mr Nsubuga revealed, adding that his brother regulated crime among unemployed youth in his locality by employing them in his stations and paying a generous fee daily.

When President Museveni returned from a visit to Algeria early in his rule, he spoke warmly about the visit and the people he had met. He named Mukalazi among the Ugandan businessmen who received him at the airport in Algiers. According to the President, when he sought to know what agricultural products Uganda could supply to Algeria, Mukalazi had a ready answer—yellow maize.

True mentor
As a good leader, Mukalazi took a number of people under his wing in his company. Nasser Mukalazi, his other son and co-director at the company, told Sunday Monitor that at his burial many people hailed the deceased for “mentor[ing] and groom[ing] them into the construction business many years ago.”

Notable among those groomed include Eng Peter Ssebanakitta, the pioneer executive director of Unra; Eng Moses Gava, a former senior quality assurance officer at the Ministry of Water and Environment; Mr Michael Odong, the former executive director of URF, and Mr Moses Bbossa Ndege, the managing Director of Multiplex Limited.

Notable projects
Mukalazi’s company was also behind the post construction of Entebbe International Airport in 1975 after the completion of its main terminal building erected between 1972 and 1973. He also managed the sewerage works and runway constructions at the same time.

The 1986 renovation of the Entebbe State House also was undertaken by his company. He would later join efforts with Zimwe Constructions to work on the Nakasero State Lodge. The construction of Gulu airfield, New Taxi Park, Mbuya Barracks and Kololo Summit View were all overseen by Mukalazi Services.

Mukalazi Technical Services initially constructed Kaguta Road that leads to President Museveni’s countryside home in Rwakitura. It also oversaw World Bank-funded construction projects such as the Uganda Support Infrastructure Municipal Development in Ntungamo District and South West Rural Agricultural Project in Ankole.

Mukalazi is survived by a wife, Edith Najjuka Mukalazi, and more than 10 children. He was buried on November 18 in Mukalazi zone, Bukoto, Kampala.

Remembering Mukalazi

Dauda Mukalazi, MD of  Mukalazi Technical Services:  My father prepared for us as his children in all aspects of life and he died a happy man knowing we were all somewhere with life. He prepared us by giving us first class education, teaching us his work and craft as well as showing us important people in life.

Mohamoud Nsubuga, brother : Ali was a people person and lover of Allah. His love for both people and God saw him take many Muslims to Mecca for Holy Pilgrimage. He believed in hard work and generosity. He always paid his workers daily and generously because he believed that those who work deserve to earn from their sweat.

Aziz Makumbi, employee:  I met the late as a young man and he groomed me into the man I am today—both in values and in the construction field. Together with my colleagues, he kept challenging us to do various things in construction.

Nasser Mukalazi, son : Dad was a very particular and result-oriented man. Growing up, he would task us to carry out various assignments and he never compromised. All he wanted were results. His motto was ‘‘Do something in the shortest possible period with the best results’’ possible.”

Welcome!

You're all set to enjoy unlimited Prime content.