Money is the mother of all evil. True to this truism, a senior citizen and one respected at that is in the news for selling a building he had leased out without the knowledge of the tenants.
The senior citizen is John Ssebaana Kizito. He served as Mayor of Kampala 2006-2011, cabinet minister, the president of the Democratic Party for many years as well as running for President of Uganda.
Despite such a glowing record and the respect he wields in social circles, Ssebaana is said to have sold off one of his buildings in the city center behind the backs of the people he had leased it to for two years.
The building in question is Ssebo Mall along Nakivubo Mews. He is reported to have sold it to tycoon Drake Lubega at undisclosed sums.
And Ssebaana has the temerity of accepting this act of double standards. He says he sold the building after encountering pressing financial obligations. Ssebaana’s unscrupulous stance has attracted anger from tenants he leased the building to. But the tenants say they will not die silently and have dragged the ailing politician to courts of law to pay for his sly behavior.
Ssebaana’s accusers are Zubair Kasule, Hussein Kaganda, Ibrahim Ssenyange, Farouk Mubiru and Shabit Ssenfuka.
The business people say in their plaint that: “Ssebaana leased the building to us for two years effective November 1, 2015. We paid him a deposit of Ushs150m which he gladly received. We were shocked to learn in February this year that he had sold the building to third parties,” they point out.
The Sunrise has chanced upon the agreement Ssebaana wrote leasing the building to his accusers. It was drafted by the Newmark advocates and bears the owner’s signature.
They learned of the second deal after Tesco Finance limited, a company linked to Drake Lubega asked the tenants to leave the building.
“The new owners said they knew nothing about us,” Ssebaana’s accusers moan. They narrate how the new owners told them that they did not want to listen to anything to do with the subsisting lease.
The plaintiffs ask Justice Billy Kainamura, of the Commercial Division of the high court to rescind the sale agreement between Ssebaana and Drake Lubega and reinstate their lease.
In the alternative, they want Ssebaana to refund their money with interest, pay compensation for the income they have lost following the sale of the building and pay further damages for causing them mental anguish and inconvenience.
When they wrote to Ssebaana in February this year, he responded by accepting to refund the money they had paid. But he admitted less than what his accusers are claiming.
“I am willing to refund the money I received,” Ssebaana wrote to the plaintiffs’ lawyers then. His letter bears reference CM/PF/16 and a date of February 15, 2016. It was in response to a February 10, 2016 notice to sue issued by the plaintiffs’ lawyers.
It reads in part, “I sold the building rather hurriedly because of pressing financial problems. I tried to contact Kasule (one of the plaintiffs), but he was away on safari.”
Deflecting further blame, Ssebaana writes how he dialed the plaintiffs’ lawyers asking them to attend a meeting with him before he could sell the building, but that they allegedly ignored his request.
Court was due to hear an application by the plaintiffs for Ssebaana to pay the money he is willing to refund, but none of the parties nor their lawyers showed up when the matter was called for hearing.