TOTAL SHAME AS NRM MP WATONGOLA ‘STEALS’ SH5M WORTH OF CURTAINS FROM POOR BOYS IN KIYEMBE HUB
By Otim Nape
Despite denials from her son Ismail Sewankambo, three young men struggling in Kiyembe curtain accessories hub in Kampala have maintained that Kamuli Municipality MP Rehema Watongola of NRM in December last year used false menaces to fraudulently take and make use of their curtain accessories (worth Shs5.7m) without paying.
On a Wednesday morning last December, Watongola picked her phone and rang Joel Seruwu, from whom she had previously bought curtains, and asked him to quickly travel to Kamuli and furnish her new house for which there would be a house-warming party on Friday that same week. The poor boy, in his early 20s, initially hesitated saying the Kiyembe practice is for the customer to pay in advance or deposit a significant fraction before they work on her house. Watongola, who in September had bought curtain accessories worth Shs2.7m from him and paid cash, wooed the young man by writing a cheque which she snapped and whatsapped on his phone as proof he would return with the money on completing the job in Kamuli.
Seruwu says he couldn’t get all the accessories required alone since he was new in the business. So, he had to move around his neighbors to get things that he didn’t have after all this was a whole MP. He kept explaining she would pay and he would reimburse those people on return from Kamuli the following day. Indeed, at some point in their phone chats, Watongola arrayed Seruwu’s fears by bragging that Shs5.7m was merely pocket change for an MP even if the cheque wasn’t how she paid him.
“She said that’s good but let my son [Ismail] be giving you some Shs200,000 just for your transport. She said be driving as I too drive from Kampala we shall meet somewhere along the way and I give you your money because it’s with me here.” Seruwu says Watongola kept saying the same thing until they realized they had been duped. “We eventually failed to locate her along the way and we had to return the cab because we had rented it just and not ours. My colleague Barassa travelled back to Kampala with the cab man and I remained in Jinja where I got a cheap lodge and slept there. It took me actually a full week in that lodge because Hon Watongola kept saying keep in the lodge as I come to find you there with your money.” After a week, he ran out of money and Watongola stopped taking his calls. “My colleagues suggested we return to Kamuli, unfurnish the house and take away our curtains because in this business, working on credit is never our practice. We tried doing that but it would embarrass her because on Friday indeed the party was there and she had many guests. We didn’t want to embarrass her.”
After Christmas, Watongola apologized and started telling Seruwu “I’m going to pay when the month ends and I get my pay.” She kept giving the same excuse for both January and February and eventually stopped taking Seruwu’s calls. “I started using numbers she doesn’t know but would switch off immediately on realizing it’s me calling. The last time we spoke she said Joel I know you are under pressure from those people you outsourced this job to but let me finish this meeting and call you. She never called back up to this day.”
Along the way, the boys became frustrated and shared this info with senior police officers at CPS whose houses they had previously furnished. “One of them, a female CD officer, called her advising Hon you need to settle this matter to avoid embarrassment. She denied saying I don’t know those boys. Where is the proof that they worked for me?” Watongola said she knows about the matter but not Barassa who was directly complaining at CPS. She immediately after rung Seruwu advising; “Let that boy take me to court because as for police, there is nothing they can do to me.” She also took offence that the young men had escalated things that way. She prompted her son Ismail to ring the boys saying his mum had released the money to him but he was away in Kenya promising to pay them on arrival. When they rang him after several days, he feigned ignorance saying he doesn’t know what they are talking about.
When Mulengera News rung Ismail today, after failing to get his mother Watongola, the young man was in a very belligerent mood. “Never waste time calling me about those stupid things. Those are very silly boys and I don’t even know about their claim against my mother. How can they say she stole their curtains? A whole MP? That is stupidity on their side,” is all he furiously said and hang up.
Still at CPS, the young men subsequently referred the matter to KMP Publicist Luke Owoyesigire who showed empathy but advised them the MP was too powerful for anyone as CPS to dare get involved in their claim against her. He advised them to administratively raise the issue with the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga. “We wrote to the Speaker after trying Minister Nakiwala Kiyingi who merely apologized to us saying there isn’t much she can do for us. We petitioned GCW Ruth Nankabirwa too since this is her member but she too didn’t do anything for us, just like Kadaga,” says Seruwu adding that he these days lives in hiding because the fellow Kiyembe curtain dealers who he (had just joined and) took curtain accessories from want him caged at CPS for duping and causing them financial losses. “Imagine I’m a young man who finished school and started my own small business having failed to get a job and a whole MP, who earns over Shs30m per month, is just condemning me to this sort of suffering; taking my stuff and refusing to pay for them. What do they want us to do? This impunity of such political leaders must end and we don’t really know who to run to because if the whole speaker can’t do anything to call her member to order,” tearfully narrated Seruwu during an interview at Mulengera News offices.
As he licks his financial wounds, Seruwu’s friends have resorted to posting stuff on social media especially under the comments section on Speaker Kadaga’s own Facebook page. This is how one of them started off the rant after Kadaga posted an update on the Covid-19 virus: “Hon. Speaker help me ask Hon Rehema Watongola why she’s not paying our money for curtains we delivered to her home in December 13th 2019…I wrote a complaint letter to your office but no response.” Besides Barassa and Seruwu, Yusuf Kirululuta is the other partner in the joint curtain business that is equally angry with Watongola and the impunity with which she has acted thus far.
Then many others weighed in commenting as follows:
Barasa Ronnie Marc Nino Ritah my dear I am much stressed with that so called Mp..I regret..the money is 5.700.000 she never paid even a single coin..she is good at manipulating…I travelled from Kampala to kamuli..deep in the village..then after the lady disappeared completely..I wrote to nakiwala kiyingi and went to Cps and even wrote to speaker no response…am left with nothing but to look for bukedde tv and narrate everything..if I fail to find justice I will demonstrate outside the parliament gate.
Nino Ritah Barasa Ronnie Marc , Bambi I i understand your pain, are you sure bukedde will help you, if not post her pic and right what your complaint is, then share on social media, she will come out to pay you.
Tracy Miguel Barasa Ronnie Marc They all look to be the same, why can’t they hear ur cry and decide to keep silent you’re right to go to Bukedde , expose them wama.
Barasa Ronnie Marc But before bukedde why can’t the speaker see my posts here sincerely…and this is her immediate woman MP from her district…kindly I’m calling upon whoever posts for madam speaker to forward my comments to the speaker…please please or else am soon posting to Twitter and tag all MPs on Twitter tired tossing me around.
Barasa Ronnie Marc Nino Ritah Thank you so much my dear… otherwise nice meeting you here..am a real Samia ..come support your brother. (For comments on this story, call, text or whatsapp us on 0705579994, 0779411734, 0200900416 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org).