By Donald Kiirya
ON March 2, 2016, NRM’s flag-bearer, Majid Batambuze was declared the new Mayor of Jinja Municipality, in Jinja district after defeating incumbent and Democratic Party stalwart, Al-Haji Mohammed Baswari Kezaala.
Batambuze beat Kezaala with a difference of 3,975 votes. Batambuze got 10,272 votes well as Kezaala got 6,297 votes in the Jinja Municipality mayoral race.
Although there were eight candidates in the contest, it was a two-horse race between Kezaala and Batambuze and this was the second time NRM was trying to recapture the seat from Kezaala who became mayor in 2006, after defeating the ruling party’s David Wakudumira.
Batambuze lost to Kezaala in 2011 general elections but did not lose any hope to outwit the DP stalwart, he did all his underground research and campaigns prompting an increase in his support among the electorate that voted him into the seat.
Some the Jinja residents who talked to New Vision to have attributed Kezaala’s failure to a lot of factors, which include accusations of land grabbing in Walukuba/Masese division in Jinja Municipality.
Some residents said what caused Kezaala’s downfall was his engagement in selling their land (bibanja), failure to control garbage collection and the nasty smell that sways across the town from tanneries.
They said the smell in town has sent away tourists and investors, adding that the town is also dirty.
There were no street lights and no one would explain the cause, yet municipal council was making money. This is why residents had to change and voted for a new mayor.
However, when contacted, Kezaala told New Vision that he had registered some achievements during his two terms as Jinja Mayor.
“I took office in 2006 when Jinja had no university and now it has a branch of Makerere University, Makerere University Business School, Kampala University, Busoga University and Islamic University is also soon setting base and the University of Science and Applied Technology will soon be established in Ambercoat.
These universities have helped to boost trade and commerce in many ways and besides, parents now don’t need to look for hostel fees since the children stay with them at home,” Kezaala stated.
He said that Jinja is possibly the only town in the country with such number of universities, adding that Iganga has one Busoga University, Mukono has one UCU, Mbarara has MUST, Tororo has Busitema University.
Kezaala said he took office when Jinja had only eight factories, but now it has over 70 fully operating factories.
“Tourism was low in that the council was collecting only sh5m per month at the Source of the Nile 10 years ago, but now it collects between sh35-sh50m per month.
When I invited President Yoweri Museveni at Paint Jinja bright function at Source of the Nile and also brought in local and international journalists, they started marketing Jinja to the outside world through Internet by anchoring on the Source of the Nile, one of the Seven Wonders of the World and since then tourism went up,” Kezaala explained.
He added that due to Busoga schools lagging behind in performance, he found that Municipality primary schools were also in that category and he immediately started a scheme to raise the standards and in 2013 the Municipality Primary schools were number eight out of 112 local government schools in the whole country, in 2014 they were number 11 out of 132 schools and in 2015 they were number 18 out of the 162.
Kezaala said they agreed with parents on the top up fees plus meals for their children and they have put infrastructure in most of JMC schools.
He added that they have attracted an international school, Galaxy Academy plus Nile International hospital, both constructed by the Turkish.
Kezaala said he runs a bursary scheme of over 4,000 children funded by Bidco (U) Ltd and another 150 children in Universities funded by Skyfat tannery, both efforts of his office since it is not indicated any where in the Local Government Act.
“Last term, I paid fees for 3,000 children from Mayor’s charity paid by drivers out of my initiative. I have developed a City Development Strategy funded by UN Habitat under my initiative and Jinja is the only town in the country with it.
So with or without me Jinja has direction,” he said, adding that last year, Jinja was ranked the best performing urban council with 88% performance.
Kezaala says tarmacking of roads still remains a challenge in the Municipality due to the low funding from Central government yet voters expect a lot.
Government gives them sh1 billion per year and this can only tarmac 2 kilometers yet Jinja has 150 kilometers and to complete the road network at that rate requires 75 year.
Kezaala said Street lighting was disconnected in October last year, adding that they are supposed to spend sh15m per month on street lighting bills, but they spend sh35m due to tapping by some residents and UMEME, which is supposed to handle this tapping is not bothered because it sends the bill to council.
He said all Municipalities in the country are disconnected due to heavy bills and for JMC, it’s in arrears of sh1.1b to UMEME, which they would have paid if government paid them their property tax and ground rent for its properties worth sh4.6b, which they have not paid for the last five years. He said voters do not know this.
Kezaala said that another challenge is that casual labourers were laid off due to the 1992 structural adjustment programme of IMF and World Bank, which makes it difficult for urban councils to clean towns.
“There are too many power centres each with its own powers and they act independently, yet the public thinks I have powers over them. For example, garbage collection is the responsibility of LC3, but the public doesn’t know. Road sweeping is for LC3 and LC1, but they do not sweep and the public puts blame on me,” Kezaala said.
He said another challenge is the Land law, which put powers in the hands of the district local council to appoint the land board and administer it as well, the District Land Board has messed up urban land and the blames goes to the Mayor.
There are also a Mafia group of Land dealers who connive with the land board to mess up Municipal land.
He added that he faced a challenge of councillors who shoot down development projects citing an example of the FUFA and FIFA who are supposed to build an international stadium at BAT Walukuba, but councillors refused to approve.
They also refused to approve a dental school that was to be built by the Iranians behind Walukuba Health Centre and an agricultural College.
About the smell, he said tanneries came to Jinja in 2006 when he took office and by this time they were welcoming industries in Jinja.
Unfortunately, the tanneries did not build their own treatment plants, but were discharging in the sewage system of NWSC and because the tannery effluent contains chemicals, whenever these acidic chemicals got into the sewage system, they would kill the bacteria and immediately the stench engulfed the town.
He said he has tried to close the tanneries several times, but it were the sons and daughters who always came and plead for re-opening so they get an income, but later engaged the tanners to build their own primary and secondary treatment plants.
Basing on the challenges above, this has contributed to the down fall of Kezaala and was defeated in the Jinja mayoral race.
According to Rajab Kito, the Public Relations Officer of Jinja Municipal Council, Jinja was turned into a township in 1906; it was later elevated to a Municipality status in 1956 and currently has a population of 79,000 people basing on the recent census.
Kito adds that so far 15 Mayors have served it and NRM’s Majid Batambuze will be the 16th Mayor.
What residents say about Kezaala
Sharon Arinaitwe from Rocko village: What failed Kezaala is that he has failed to clean the town, get rid of the stench in Jinja town and above all he has also engaged into Land grabbing in Walukuba/Masese division, so we could not vote him back as Mayor.
Phillip Bwambale Mabunda: Happy that we concluded the mayoral race and that NRM’s Majid Batambuze was elected, we are yet to see changes in Jinja.
Kezaala had totally failed in his five years and the other five years were by accident that he was re-elected Mayor, the town still has a stench that has chased away many, the town is in darkness without street lights and in Walukuba, plots were divided amongst himself and his councilors.
Asuman Wandera: Kezaala had poor advisors, they have been eating his money for nothing, he has not been a man of the people and the public was tired of him, they needed change.
If he had come down to earth to serve the people, he would have been re-elected but he wasn’t approachable during his tenure.