The recent arrest of Herbert Kabafunzaki, the Minister of State for Labour, Employment and Industrial Relations, on theft, is nothing new. Seventeen years ago, another minister, Joseph Ekemu, of Justice and Constitutional Affairs was sent to prison for two years on a similar charge.
Ekemu had been caught diddling the Iteso on the money meant for the refund of their stolen cows by the UPDF. That cattle issue has not yet been settled. (But that is another story).
A case of theft at an astronomical level is still going on one of the thieves, Godfrey Kazinda. Also, there is still the issue of former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Public Service, Jimmy Lwamafa and his colleagues, for stealing more than 68 billion shillings belonging to the Uganda pensioners, many of whom died without getting their emoluments.
There was a creation of the Inspectorate General of Government, specifically meant to fight graft. Whereas, one can say a lot has been done, the pertinent question to ask, which was paraphrased by the DP President General Nobert Mao, is that: so far the people caught are small fry, what happens to the big fish and those very closely connected to them?
In the case that President Yoweri Museveni has recently been highlighted on, two Ministry of Finance officials were caught red-handed taking a hefty dollar bribe from a Chinese “investor”. Credit must also go to NOTU officials for exposing Kabafunzaki, who has been a serial beneficiary of bribes from industries he is in charge of; and he was getting pay-offs at the expense of the workers he would sacrifice for his graft.
There is an Ateso saying: “Do not selectively pick maggots from a mushroom.” In other words, when you notice that a mushroom is rotting and you observe maggots in it, don’t merely pick a few maggots, leaving others; and hoping that when you cook the mushroom, it will be tasty.
Nope! The remaining maggots in the mushroom will render the course rotten and smelly. Either, you pick all the maggots; or you throw away the whole thing. Pretending and avoiding removing all the maggots, does not in any way render the mushroom clean.
That allegory is applicable to the situation in Uganda. Take the case of the thieves in Ministry of Finance. This has been known for a long time; and these also include those in other financial institutions and ministries.
Everywhere one turns to, one is met with massive thefts. This has rendered the country ungovernable and brought in a situation where there are a few individuals with lots of stolen money packed in rooms. These are constantly fumigated to remove the mould and the rotting of the notes. When they dare to bank it, they simply weight the money; they cannot manually count it.
At the other end, you have more that 90 % of the people in degrees of poverty. They are angry and hungry. This situation needs a proper remedy: as Chinua Ahebe ones put it, “The center can no longer hold”.