The Executive Director of the Uganda National Cultural Centre (UNCC) Francis Peter Ojede, has been sold or is being sold.
“As long as I am still the director, I will fight to protect the theatre,” he maintained that: “Nothing is for sale or has been sold. UNCC and the Government are planning to re-develop the theatre under Public Private Partnership Act of 2015,” Ojede said, adding that there is no developer in place yet.
Ojede’s UNCC management and the Ministry of Labour, Gender and Social development recently came under scathing criticism from the arts and culture fraternity as well as from the general public for trying to giveaway the National Theatre land under the guise of redeveloping it.
In our issue Sept 9-15, 2016, we revealed that the redevelopment process is part of a well discussed and documented plot by the government to secure land to erect an office block to accommodate the rising number of MPs. The decision to target the UNCC land, according to documents of two meetings we obtained, was reached because of its proximity to Parliament and was hence considered appropriate for MPs to attend sessions.
Also, in our issue of Sept 2-8, 2016 we revealed serious contradictions in the proposed plans whereby the ministry talked of a 14-storey building was being planned while the UNCC management talked of a building of 20 storeys.
Although backing the plan, Ojede said was originated by the previous UNCC board chaired by Makerere University arts don Dr. Mercy Mirembe Ntangare and had members such as renowned educationist Fagil Mandy.
Robert Musiitwa, the Public Relations Manager of UNCC explained that the redevelopment exercise continues to gather public views through consultations.
According to Ojede, UNCC development plan is targeting improving art, by adding a commercial parking lot that will cater for over 1000 vehicles and office space.
He added that the new structure will have three auditoria that can accommodate over 3000 people. He said the three auditoria will cater for drama, concerts and opera. It will also have a resource centre, art and craft space, food court, language centre, dance studio, media centre, among other facilities.
But artists have rejected UNCC’s plans saying that it goes against the original rationale and vision of the creators of the National Theatre, who only entrusted it to the government.
Julius Lugaya of the Theatre Factory told The Sunrise that the government and UNCC management has sidelined arts in generating ideas for redeveloping the institution yet the government only holds the place in trust for artists.
“The original theatre was constructed by various stakeholders who gave artistes a guarantee as stakeholders. Now, we are being left out,” Lugaya complained.