On September 9th 2021, Police and rescue teams rushed to Kisenyi, a stone’s throw from the city centre.
It followed the collapse of one of the buildings under construction, where six lives of casual labourers were lost.
The Kisenyi incident was not the first and definitely will not be the last.
In 2020, in Makindye, Lukuli, 15 people died after they were buried in the rubble of a building that had collapsed. In all these incidents, authorities have been quick to launch investigations yet the findings are never made public.
So what is the cause of these buildings collapses?
Kampala Lord Mayor, Erias Lukwago, says it is corruption.
The National Building Review Board (NBRB) is mandated to monitor buildings and to oversee and inspect the operations of building committees.
It has over time published information related to the building they have investigated following collapse. Most of the findings have raised eyebrows.
Five divisions of Kampala compiled a report earlier this year which indicated that over 500 buildings in the city are either not on plan or those that have approved plans have already deviated from it.
Hakim Kizza the executive secretary, works and engineering at KCCA said most of these buildings belong to big people in government.
“We have seen many where we approve like six levels, someone builds twelve. These are also called illegal structures because you have deviated from the approved plan,” Kizza said.
Lukwago, the Kampala Lord Mayor says this nightmare stems from the weak and porous systems that deal with approval of plans, supervision, monitoring and the engineers who do the actual civil works.
“Sometimes you get beaten by these systems, for example that structure we demolished at the Old Taxi park you will ask in the first place how did it reach that level. I think by the time it was brought down, they where on the fourth floor and they had no plan,” Lukwago said.
He said for the case of the Kisenyi building, it had no plan from KCCA, but the developer Haruna Ssentongo went ahead to construct until the building collapsed.
Ssentongo declined to talk to us.
Flavia Bwire the executive secretary of the NBRB said the building sector especially in kampala has been infested with quacks.
“By virtue of the fact that building construction is booming more in and around the Kampala Metropolitan Area that is where also the quacks are doing there job most, because there is a lot of demand and the supply is also there,” Bwire said.
NBRB investigations revealed not only are there quacks but also some of the qualified professionals participate in the fraud by stamping the plans yet they are not in charge of the sites.
Dr. Isaac Mutenyo the chairperson, Engineer’s Registration Board said they are trying to tie the loose ends like this case under investigation now.
“There is a case that we saw where the stamp was genuine and it was of an engineers who had died. Now that is an investigation we are following to see what happened. We need to determine whether at the time of the design that person was alive or dead,” Mutenyo said.
Ivan Tumukunde an engineer on this site says, its very important to follow the structural plans when putting up a building.
In the construction of slabs and columns [of buildings] is where the dynamics of collapsing have been coming from. The mix designs have to be done correctly, the materials have to be right. You see we have props on this project which have to be kept up to support the slab for between 21 – 28 days until the concrete has properly set to its right capacity and we are able de-shuttle and the slab can stand on its own,” Tumukunde said.
Yet with lives lost and property destroyed, who is accountable for the collapsed buildings and will those affected ever get justice?
“In situations where we find our engineers culpable, they should be prosecuted but our efforts are being frustrated day in a day out and that’s a problem. In many of these cases there people who are culpable in Kisenyi who was culpable? The supervisor and the engineer but why are they not being prosecuted? In Makindye it was the same story,” Lukwago said.