What you need to know:
- ‘‘The Germans will sell to Uganda their top cars. But they are not stupid”
Recently, the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Mr Thomas Tayebwa, appealed for German help with Uganda’s irrigation capacity.
In the presence of the German ambassador, that was begging. Otherwise you simply go to German companies and pay for equipment, expertise and training for your agriculture sector.
At the same gathering, Tayebwa said Uganda was extremely happy with China, because Chinese loans did not come with strings. All the Chinese wanted was being repaid. In short, Uganda’s human rights abuses, horrendous waste and corruption did not bother China, as long as Ugandan taxpayers could be bled to repay.
Long before Tayebwa’s day, President Museveni said he did not mind MPs sleeping in Parliament, as long as they woke up to vote for NRM/Museveni’s positions on different issues.
On several occasions, the President has obliquely expressed his desire to destroy effective organised political Opposition, leaving only token entities enabling Uganda to parade among democracies. Indeed, serious Opposition leaders are often treated as traitors.
Now, Tayebwa’s appeal for German irrigation technology, and his exaltation of the Chinese, came around the time pictures of very expensive German automobiles for the Speaker and Deputy Speaker were making news. About Shs2.8b was spent on the two Mercedes’. The Prime Minister and Vice President have reportedly been lavished with similar luxury.
One man, three women. The rubbish you bought from wishful thinkers that women would be kinder to taxpayers than men was – well – rubbish.
Higher up, the President has also reportedly added an even more expensive limousine to his stable. Assuming this exclusive Mercedes Maybach is armoured, its smell could be close to Shs3b. One car.
All these machines impose huge (future) service/maintenance costs, especially with the Speakers’ cars purchased through a rather dubious side-door supplier.
But then that is an NRM normal. Enrica Pinetti could have been looking for a spot to set up a roadside spaghetti kiosk when someone read to her the science of becoming Uganda’s leading coffee processor.
Realistically, the Germans make cars to sell. So, they will sell to Uganda their top cars. But they are not stupid. They must be left a little confused, unsure whether they are dealing with mature public servants who understand their country, which currently has Karimojong families starving in spite of the President’s cassava recommendation, or with neo-adolescents harbouring Hollywood fantasies, to whom turning up at the June-2022 Budget speech day in new super cars was an ‘emergency’.
Ugandan bigwigs always (separately) relate a specific (public) expenditure they are (personally) interested in to the entire budget. They avoid looking at the cumulative picture.
Therefore, a ‘few’ billion shillings for a car is not outrageous against a budget of Shs48 trillion. A windfall of Shs40 million for an MP is nothing against Shs48 trillion. A commission/theft of Shs50b on a contract is modest against Shs48t. Hundreds of billions of ‘classified’ and ‘donations’ for the President against Shs48t is bearable. And so on …
Well, this is extremely bad mathematics and financial management, if you want irrigation programmes beyond Museveni’s plastic bottle drips. The Germans know it. The Chinese know it.
If the Germans/Europeans show some concern, and also want us to understand that abusing political power could lead to the destruction of even the little we have achieved with our taxes and borrowed money, they are the lesser of our enemies.
Ultimately, our bigger enemies are the Chinese, who do not care at all. And our other enemies are our rulers, who sing in praise of science and mathematics but want us to think as uncritically as cows.
Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator.