Wasswa Ziritwawula resigned as a member of the National Resistance Council, the then equivalent of Parliament, in 1989. Ziritwawula’s gesture remains one of the few instances of a public servant resigning on principle in modern Ugandan history. NBS TV’s Samson Kasumba met the Ziritwawula to relive that historic moment and his years of public service.
Samson: You have had changing political faces, are you still NRM or are you DP?
Ziritwawula: That’s the perception of people but I have never changed faces. I have been DP from the beginning only that when NRM came to power it introduced the movement system which we all joined and worked together until when political parties where reintroduced, and that is when we… you know separated but all of us were working under the movement system at that time.
Samson: So you were not part of NRM the party but just inside the movement like everybody including (then DP President) Ssemogerere?
You are most known for that 1989 NRM walk out where you opposed the Museveni rule extension…do you remember the incident?
Ziritwawula: Yeah I do remember. I may not remember the very details (shrugs his shoulders) but I remember the incident. What happened was that when NRM came to power, it promised to be in power for four years. So four years was going up to…(struggles to recall exact year)
Samson: I interject.. 1986-1990?
Ziritwawula: When it comes to around September 1989 a bill was introduced in parliament for the extension and I found I was not comfortable with it so I participated in the discussion and I opposed the extension. But when the extension was made I decided to leave parliament and that’s what happened.
Samson: Were you the only one who opposed this?
Ziritwawula: Laughs no…many people opposed especially those from the opposition from DP and UPC and other you know parties but what happened was that at the end of the day after the discussion many decided to remain in government but as for me I said that I was elected to serve for certain period and that period is over and it’s not my mandate to renew my term of office.
Samson: Were you surprised when you walked out, you walked out alone
Ziritwawula: Laughs I was not surprised because…
Samson: Why not?
Ziritwawula: I had not discussed with anybody on the question of resigning so `I resigned on my own and I was not surprised that some people did not follow me…
Samson: Do you regret it?
Ziritwawula: I don’t, I don’t at all
Samson: After the rolling of years have some come back to you saying you were right and they were wrong?
Ziritwawula: Some people say it…some say you were right others say you were wrong so you have both sides
Samson: Any significant names who have come back to you to say you were right and they were wrong?
Ziritwawula: I do want to mention those names…Laughs
We move to the subject of Kampala city administration after his reluctance…
Samson: You have been mayor and chair central division seen a few things in the process, talk to us about your days in KCC.
Ziritwawula: By the time we took over management of Kampala City Council it was in a total mess. There was a lot of garbage, the roads were very bad…they were collecting very little revenue. In a short time I am happy to say that we managed to prop up Kampala City Council and by the time I left… though I served there for only two years it had started coming up.
Samson: Do you think that Kampala is better now than it was then?
Ziritwawula: I can’t say it is better now.
Ziritwawula: By the time we went in to serve, in City Council the infrastructure was so bad, the administration was so bad. Right. We started on it with very, very meagre resources so we couldn’t do much as much as they can do now with bigger, bigger resources
Samson: Yes they can do more but do you think that the developments we see now around the city like giving away parks to development are good or are they regrettable?
Ziritwawula: Off course we lament some of those excesses because as you say we had public parks. We had this one near Sheraton hotel that has gone. Independence Park, that one is gone. We had this one at Kamwokya. We had been planning to develop it into a children’s park. It’s now filled with buildings.
Ziritwawula: We had one… the centenary park now…down there…it’s gone. You do not have much space for public parks and recreation now, which is lamentable and should not have been done that way…
Samson: Do you think this can be reversed?
Ziritwawula: How? Because some of the buildings you are not going to pull down. I think they can concentrate on identifying other open spaces which are not built yet and… (he emphasizes) reserve them for such facilities recreation and all.
Samson: Talk to us about the pressure of being a public servant, it must be a very difficult job?
Ziritwawula: It is, it is because you know especially you get pressures from above. People in the central government.
Samson: You get phone calls…?
Ziritwawula: Oh off course
Samson: From the president?
Ziritwawula: Hesitates to respond to that…
Samson: Did you get one from the president in your term of office, or you would you not want to say so?
Ziritwawula: Not concerning pressure. I never got any phone call from the president pressurizing me to do something. But from ministers I used to get a lot.
Samson: People wanting to grab things?
Ziritwawula: Off course…I remember I was in city council when a certain minister called me and he wanted me to allocate about twenty plots to big people in government and he didn’t want me pass it through the council to get a council resolution. He wanted me as mayor to authorize that and I said no.
Samson: Do they trade threats that if you do not they will…
Ziritwawula: Laughs fortunately in my administration I never got that?
Samson: Do you think DP will be here another twenty thirty years?
Ziritwawula: I do not see any reason why it shouldn’t be here only that we have to keep on improving the administrative skills in in the party. We used to have the calibre of Paul Ssemogerere, Ssebana Kizito, Joseph Mulenga, the late Byanyima (exclaims) ah, ah, ah Kisamba Mugerwa was there one time, Miria Mutagamba. You know that calibre of people. They were really supportive for the development of the party.
Samson: Are you suggesting that the caliber of persons DP has are more light weight compared to those DP had back in those days?
Ziritwawula: I can’t say that because generations change
Samson: You seem to be suggesting so?
Ziritwawula: No generations change…
Samson: Why do you think our politics that started off with the Ben Kiwanuka’s, the Abu Kakyama Mayanjas, the Milton Obote’s ,the Yoweri Musevenis, the Boniface Byanyimas, has failed to reproduce that class of politicians?
Ziritwawula: Money…People now come to politics to get money not to serve mainly and that is a very, very big problem. Because one would even borrow money to come and contest a parliament seat because they expect to get very good remuneration there. Until we overcome that problem of you know…money considerations we are going to have a problem with our politics…
Samson: If you met God and he gave you a chance to do one thing you have not done yet, but you would have loved to do…what would it be?
Ziritwawula: To see this country going back to democratic principles of leadership
Samson: Have you ever thought about being Uganda’s president even in your wildest dreams?
Ziritwawula: Yes, yes. If I had the chance, but now my age is…laughs
Samson: The age cap is lifted so you can still pursue that…
Ziritwawula: But you see even bodily, physically you go on declining, declining and you may not be able to do certain things as president. Presidential tasks are very demanding…
Samson: What do you do now?
Ziritwawula: Looking after my grandchildren but I am also doing some studying…
We finish off here…