Four candidates have joined the race for the Jinja South East parliamentary seat that has presumed to be an exclusive political affair between Mr Nathan Igeme Nabeta (NRM) and Mr Paul Mwiru (Alliance for National Transformation -ANT).
This time, Ms Zam Zam Nakakande, the daughter of Hajj Ahmed Ssekito, a prominent businessman in Jinja City, is challenging for the seat on an Independent ticket.
Others are Mr Emmanuel Wansalala (FDC), Mr Majid Batambuze and Pastor Tom Ngobi, both independents.
Ms Nakakande, a 25-year-old graduate of human resource management, believes that since she is the sole woman contestant in the race, she stands a chance.
“Political parties are no longer relevant in Jinja South East since the previous MPs, including the incumbent (Mwiru), have been associated with parties but not much can be seen on the ground as far as developments are concerned,” she said at the launch of her campaigns last week.
However, Mr Julius Kaira Nabambula, a politician and resident of Jinja South East Constituency, ruled out any possibility of Ms Nakakande winning the highly-competitive seat come 2021.
According to him, either Mr Mwiru or Mr Nabeta will win the election because the duo has built structures, own radio stations and have been involved in setting up projects in the constituency.
Mr Nabambula added that Ms Nakakande’s alleged lack of political experience may work against her despite coming from a wealthy and influential family.
“Ms Nakakande’s father is my friend, but what I have seen in his daughter’s camp is ‘very shallow.’ This will let them down despite the money they have. Politics is not viewed on the surface like items sold in business people’s shops,” he added.
Mr Nabeta’s strength lies in the fact his radio station has for quite long time provided employment, both directly and indirectly, to residents in the constituency.
He is also behind the Lake Victoria Information Technology Industry (LAVIT) and his association with President Museveni, who commands considerable support in Jinja City, means there is a likelihood that many of the head of state’s supporters will vote for him on the basis of holding the NRM party card.
Also, Mr Nabeta is widely viewed as a person with a calm demeanor, rarely confrontational and has tried to steer clear of land grabbing scandals, at least for now.
However, his sustained rivalry with Mr Majid Batambuze, the outgoing interim Jinja City Mayor, who was also nominated for the same seat, may affect his votes.
Mr Nabeta defeated Mr Batambuze in the September 4 NRM party primaries, but the latter has since dismissed that election as one that was littered with malpractice, which might split the NRM vote.
Further still, Mr Nabeta continues to battle allegations from his political opponents that he lacks academic papers and that voters would be wasting time voting him as the court will throw him out as it has previously done.
Most recently, in October, he was dragged to court over alleged lack of requisite academic papers by Pastor Ngobi, one of the candidates who lost to him in the NRM primaries.
Also sued was the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) and the Uganda National Examinations Board (Uneb) for clearing his academic certificates.
This was the third time Mr Nabeta was being dragged to court over allegedly lacking requisite academic qualifications.
In 2012, Mr Mwiru sought litigation and the court nullified his candidature. In 2015, Mr Mwiru again sued Mr Nabeta, also for lack of requisite academic qualifications, but he was cleared by the NCHE and contested in the Jinja East Parliamentary by election, but lost to Mr Mwiru.
During his nomination last month, which went on without any incidents, Mr Nabeta urged the electorate to rally behind him, saying empty talk was not good for development.
Mr Mwiru’s team boasts of numerous projects brought in the constituency as a template to defend his re-election bid.
Some include lobbying for a seed secondary school in Walukuba, launching the late Abbey Dhaira Stadium and providing iron sheets to re-roof different churches, among others.
It is widely being suggested that Mr Mwiru may ride on the differences between Mr Nabeta and Mr Batambuze, who are likely to share votes from NRM supporters, and claim the seat.
Another factor that favours Mr Mwiru’s bid is the ownership of a radio station, which is fast-growing in listenership.
However, his decision to cross from FDC to ANT has created some ‘gaps’ for him, as FDC supporters now have their candidate in Mr Wansalala.
In July, Mr Mwiru abdicated his position as FDC deputy spokesperson and member of the party’s National Executive Committee, to join ANT, saying the decision was “informed by the need for stronger ethical values.”
Following that development, it was suggested that FDC without Mr Mwiru was no more, at least in Jinja East constituency; and those fronting that narrative said it was because he had grown up in the constituency, done business there and his political career was not just starting.
Lately, allegations by voters that Mr Mwiru is not on the ground have emerged but he has dismissed them.
“The work of an MP is to debate in Parliament (in Kampala) where you sent me, not staying in the constituency,” he has always said in defence.
Mr Mwiru will also face the question of not setting up his radio station in Jinja South East and instead chose to house it in Jinja South West constituency.
There are, however, some voters who view the constituency as one that must be reclaimed by FDC, having been held by a party member.
“There is a bloc whose loyalty is to the party and not to an individual; so these will overwhelmingly vote for Mr Wansalala,” Mr Difas Mayeku, a teacher said.
The 46-year-old FDC candidate, who was born and raised in Jinja Municipality East, went to Makerere University for a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Economics.
He later proceeded to Uganda Management Institute (UMI) for a Post Graduate Diploma in Public Administration and Management and has since attained international training in law enforcement and intelligence gathering.
He is the former Jinja District councillor (2001-2006) representing Walukuba-Masese Division and has also previously worked with the Ministry of Internal Affairs, but is currently a consultant and farmer.
In 2016, he stood for the Buzaaya County MP seat in Kamuli District but lost to Mr Isaac Musumba.
“First and foremost, my candidature brings a wealth of governance and management experience given my illustrious career and academic background. I am responding to a call from the people of Jinja East constituency.
“I intend to provide effective leadership and build a meaningful relationship among the people of Jinja East and act as a link between the people and the public service providers which has largely been lacking,” he said in an interview at the weekend.
Emmanuel Wansalala, FDC candidate: “First and foremost, my candidature brings a wealth of governance and management experience given my illustrious career and academic background. I am responding to a call from the people of Jinja East constituency. I intend to provide effective leadership and build a meaningful relationship among the people of Jinja East and act as a link between the people and the public service providers which has largely been lacking.”
Zam Zam Nakakande, independent . “Political parties are no longer relevant in Jinja South East since the previous MPs, including the incumbent (Mwiru), have been associated with parties but not much can be seen on the ground as far as developments are concerned.”