By Stephen Twinoburyo
In South Africa, a spaza shop is one that would be found by the road side or outside a taxi park or anywhere informal. It is of a temporary nature and offers small goodies, usually eats. Its mode of operation is what is interesting. The owner can open or close it any time, or not open at all therefore, its reliability is quite low.
It is in the mode of operation that I find similarities with the way Uganda is run. I will look at a few headlines that have come out of Uganda over the past few years.
The Guardian, 28 May 2010: Uganda president orders public servants to retire at 50.
This is as ridiculous as it sounds. Uganda does not have the economic capacity and freedom to retire people at such an early age. To do so, would mean that the government would have to look after these people since they will be unproductive. Currently, most European countries – France, Germany, Spain e.t.c – are considering raising the retirement age so that people can work longer, thus earning an income and reducing the burden on the states. The average retirement age in USA is 60.
Besides, these are not the kind of decisions that are made at the whim. They must be planned. What then happens to workers’ retirement arrangements and actuarial calculations made on their pension contributions based on their expected time of retirement? It is the manner of such decisions, taken according to the way the ‘owner’ wakes up feeling that morning, that makes decision-making in Uganda similar to that of a spaza shop.
The main motivation for this decision is ostensibly to create jobs for youngsters who are increasingly getting unemployed and hence becoming explosive. Going for the elder citizens wont help. Over 80% of Uganda’s population is below the age of 50. I then don’t see how taking a small percentage of people out of the job market will create an abundance of jobs for the majority. President Museveni himself is approaching 70 and has been president of the country for close to 25 years and unchallenged as chairman of the ruling National Resistance Movement for close to 30. He could show a good example by retiring first.
Now look at other decisions, most of them announced while addressing a gathering and at the spur of the moment:
The African Conservation Forum: Uganda: Museveni Orders Kaloli Birds (Marabou Storks) Relocated, 04 January 2008:
The days of scavenger birds at State House Nakasero are numbered following an order by President Yoweri Museveni to relocate them. “An official from State House called last week saying that Museveni loves birds, but the Karoli was becoming a nuisance” according to Venice Mirembe, Uganda Wildlife Authority acting PRO.
Radio Netherlands International: 17 Sept 2009:
Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has ordered that all radio talk shows, commonly known as bimeeza, should be off the air and the immediate arrest of propagandists who have been using them as a platform to destabilize the country’s peace.
The Observer, 21 April 2010:
President Museveni has ordered the Attorney General and Minister of Local Government to create at least seven new constituencies before next year’s elections.
UG pulse.com, 30 April 2010:
Museveni orders CHOGM committee to give Vice President second chance
256News.com: 7 June 2010:
President Yoweri Museveni has directed the National Agricultural and Advisory Services (NAADS) to set conditional ties for the model farmers who benefit from the programme during the time of selecting the prospective beneficiaries.
The President was speaking at a rally in Kyankwanzi on Friday on the last day of his 2-day popularization and sensitization tour of Kiboga district in his current Bonna Bagaggawale (Prosperity-For-All) programme in Uganda ’s Central Region.
New Vision: Sunday, 7th March, 2010:
PRESIDENT Yoweri Museveni has directed the army not to leave Namashate parish in Bududa district until all bodies buried by a landslide one week ago have been recovered.
Monitor, 5 May 2010:
Museveni Orders CHOGM Arrests.
Daily Nation, 7 June 2010:
Museveni orders probe into Kazini death
New Vision, 11 April 2010:
PRESIDENT Yoweri Museveni has ordered an investigation into the death of Beine Rukaari, the 22-year-old son of minister Bright Rwamirama.
Mathaba News Agency, 30 October 2006
Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has ordered Tamoil East Africa Ltd to be investigated.
Uganet, 2 Feb 2003:
Expand Varsities, Museveni Orders
There you have it. One wonders, are there any institutions still standing in that country? Is there anybody else able to take a decision in Uganda? For spaza shops, it is usually just the owner – or his wife.