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Problem is you Ugandans don’t like change to the extent you will even fight tooth and nail if suggestions of change are thrown your way take the honorable Amam Mbabazi his calls for change in the NRM have forced him to lose the prime minister and his secretary general post is in the balance screamed a wannabe politician at the taxi stage in Bujuuko. Directly above him Umeme officers were installing Yaka! An electricity billing pre-paid solution in which you don’t have uniformed men knocking on our doors in the name of billing your energy consumption for the past 30 days. The excitement started with the landlords as they saw it as an opportunity to pass on the electricity to us the users i.e. the tenants and given it’s the Umeme officers who came looking for them at their doors it elevated their egos even more. The landlord in turn quickly passed a note around insisting everyone should get his own Yaka! meter so he manages their own power all said with a grin as he locked the door behind him.
However the party was short lived in the evening several of the shops around blacked out and word got around the Yaka! Machines we blinking red and the 30kilowatts left behind by Umeme burnt out as quickly as the time Umeme had spent installing them. Apparently the many fridges, TV’s, charging systems had drained the small machine and as more shops blacked out came the complaints and so the finger pointing started
‘These Umeme people are thieves this Yaka! Business is foolery’
‘The Yaka! Drains the power like a cheap hoe sipping money from your pocket’ complained another
‘These are the end times now the devil is passing through machines supplied by Umeme repent your ways or perish’ screamed a street preacher
While others complained about the meter some asked about the renew process so where do we buy this Yaka! Business?
You will have to take a taxi to Nakulabye the nearest Umeme office to buy the Yaka!’ which was met with disappointment
‘What that’s too expensive’ screamed Nabukenya one of the harshest most complicated landlords who owned nearly half of Bujuuko rental units. Women too were not forgotten and one came air her view
‘I had the man say you could renew using mobile money’
‘Mh how do you do that woman?’
‘Are you expecting anything sensible from a woman selling charcoal’ sneered a man in his mid-twenties with dirty boots who was a brick maker in the town at the swamp
‘Be very careful with your tongue that’s my wife’ shot one who had been very quiet all this time and all the men agreed to handle the man’s wife with more respect. It wasn’t the first time men in the area had fought over women just the night before two men had fought after the other had referred to the others wife as a hoe. To clear this Yaka! Menace the men agreed to make it a point and early bird to Nakulabye in the morning to resolve the Yaka! Menace that was eating up every shop in the village and building by building. The popcorn lady had gone off midway in the process of preparing popcorn; a barber had left a client’s head shaved half way which made him look like a fancy footballer and just a few hours before an announcement had passed by
‘We are remaining with 20kws’
Screamed Mukiibi the landlord’s first son. He came with all this excitement written all over his face then minutes later he was back this time with sadness there are 14kws left and the light before swallowing very hard. Aysha a tenant who deals specifically in butunda, munansi and needs the fridge full time asked
‘The one on the Yaka!’
‘What’s wrong with light?’
‘It’s going to switch any time from now’
‘And how do you know this’
‘The people who installed it told us that’
Before he would even finish the woman ran back to the house switched on the blender, ruffled through a cupboard throwing kaveera around as she looked for oranges, passion fruits and a clean bucket of water. She swiped the glistening knife through the oranges and threw them in the blender and quashed them into juice. She loaded the juice into the backed and switched on the fridge and life came back to normal. One customer after another they lined up ordering juice and munansi until one customer complained that the juice wasn’t cold enough. As she stared down at fridge she noticed the fridge light was off. She quickly ran next door to the internet cafe
‘What is it?’ asked the cafe girl
‘Is power is off’ she asked under her breath
‘I was also wondering the computers just went off. I thought one of the sockets had blown as usual however even the bulb is not lighting.’
‘Well let’s wait for Mukiibi’ suggested Aysha, ‘his been passing here all the time besides he has the habit of switching of playing with the electricity connections’
‘Hope so’ concluded the cafe girl
As Aysha walked out of the cafe auntie Chalani the tailor who sub rented the verandah asked in Luganda
‘What is wrong with the two of you it’s like you have seen a ghost?’
‘Hope it’s not have you seen Mukiibi?’
‘No’ came the reply from auntie Chalani ‘i think his with his bricks behind the house
As they stood at the cafe door debating what was wrong with the power Aysha spotted Mukiibi entering their house armed with a plate over flowing with beans and posho
‘Mukiibi’ screamed Aysha ‘come ko kalittle’
‘Let me put this food in the house and come’ he replied
Minutes back he came back pulling on his blue jacket while dragging his shoes made from used car tyres.
‘Have you been playing with power’ bellowed Aysha pointing a finger at him
‘No’ he replied calmly ‘but i thought i had told you
‘Told me what’ asked Aysha
‘The Yaka! Is finished’ Mukiibi shot back
‘What are we to do then’ asked the cafe girl
‘Wait for muzeeyi’ was Mukiibi answer then he walked away while whistling and fingering his phone
‘So what are you going to do’ auntie Chalani
‘Don’t know wait for the café owner and see if his got any solutions he usually does’
No sooner had they finished chatting than a popular land dealer came whistling armed with papers inscribed broadly with the words “REPUBLIC OF UGANDA LAND TITLE”
He greeted politely and asked
‘Nyabo is there photocopy??’
‘Sorry there is no power’
‘How come the other shops are lighting even the video hall people are watching movies’ he said
‘Am told our Yaka! is finished’ the cafe girl answered
‘And what is this thing called Yaka!?’ the man asked
‘Well it’s the new solution of paying for power but come back maybe tomorrow’ she said as he walked away very disappointed muttering now i have to ‘travel to Kyebando‘
With the boredom creeping the cafe girl carried her chair to auntie they started detailing there impending Idi Aduha celebrations and the impending slaughtering of animals as Allah asked it to be done. Auntie Chalani promised to carry a dish packed with meat for her but she suggested it would be better in a polythene bag to which they all broke into laughter. As they chatted the café owner passed by armed with a jerry can and asked
‘Why are we off?’
That night the cafe closed very early and in pitch blackness while directly opposite shops were bubbly and it was business as usual with money switching hands accompanied with
‘Why are those shops off?’
Others wondered have they been disconnected’ however most were not comforting at all and instead slang mud at the landlord ‘that is weaked and his not even caring for his tenants’ but am sure he will demand for his rent at the end of the month. Aysha complained that man has not even bothered to explain why power is off if i had it my way i would shift to another house. The late night customers at Aysha’s shop were not merciful any little bit and suggested Aysha and other tenants organize a strike since it’s what all leaders hear and respond to.
First thing in the morning the café owner moved to the landlord’s house with his mind swirling with thoughts and bulging with questions that he planned to offload at the landlord’s door steps. These thoughts had been hardened by the past history of the landlord and as he stared at the landlords behind bent over in figure seven heaping charcoal in small plastics while her second born was at the extreme end sweeping the dusty compound one incident stood out clearly. Next to the building housing the café was graffiti of skimpily dressed women invitingly holding glasses of what looked like alcohol, their chests screaming to the opposite sex to come and touch away there fantasies behind them were chain smoking young men with cigarettes sticking out of their mouths bent over playing a game of pool. The other occupants of the scene were holding pool table cues waiting on their turn while the third man in the picture was holding a big brown bottle of alcohol in one hand and the other was wrapped around a woman’s shapely waist her hands resting on his shoulders while her ears were leaning next to the man’s ear like she was whispering something. All around were speakers blaring music and other figures that completed the graffiti were in oddly shapes suggesting they were enjoying the time of their lives dancing away to the blaring music. This was what remained of the once magnificent bar that occupied this part of the house however it’s ending had not been smooth.
Auntie Duuka had told me how the landlord had excused himself of all the arrangements he had with the bar proprietor and claimed he wasn’t paying his monthly rent nor the umeme bills that were now running into their millions. To throw him out he had even called for the intervention of police to evict him from the house and so she had suggested that when he got tired of a tenant he would bring up all sorts of excuses and load them onto your doorstep and looking at the power shortage that was hitting the café I couldn’t help but shiver at the thought probably this was part of his plan to throw us out.
‘Morning Sebbo’ a soft female voice interrupted my thought
‘Morning Nyabo’ I answered quickly shaking off any would be embarrassments that she would think of in me standing behind him. ‘Where is the landlord?’
‘His inside’ came her answer as she placed a black plastic pail on the ground rubbed her feet against each other then moved inside to call her husband
As she came back she went on a short rant accusing me of ignorance and never minding, telling how during the installation of Yaka! she had interacted with the installation officers who had reduced the price to only one month’s rent which stood at 150,00 Uganda shillings. she then went on to sub consciously defend her husband’s actions of not quickly putting back power excusing that he didn’t have enough to fund the installation of each house that number to six in total and instead she advised the tenants to procure their own Yaka! devices or forever sleep in darkness she threw all this information at the cafe owners feet then disappeared to quickly go back to creating little heaps of charcoal that she sold at her stall in front of their house and the café owner wouldn’t help but wonder does she know what it means to raise money to pay rent monthly.
The café owner stood at the verandah for close to five minutes wondering how a man would watch away while others suffered in the darkness like renting his premises was a crime committed by the tenants. As he cooked up the most dramatic way to announce his disappointment to the landlord his thoughts well-choreographed were hijacked by the landlord himself.
He crept from his back so silent like a cat and announced ‘didn’t I tell you to buy meters?’ the question threw the café owners well-choreographed speech onto the wind and he was put on a lecture bench once again by the unwashed face of the landlord saliva foam at the corners of his mouth was not helping at all.
‘I told you these Yaka! People were coming and told everyone to find information and you all acted like it didn’t matter’
‘Now here you are looking at me with an accusing eye yesterday my boy came and told you the Yaka! Was remaining with few units instead of saving you all turned on your power consuming gadgets’ as he went on the café owner tried to fight back and kill the crap.
‘So what’s the way forward?’ he asked his voice fighting back the resentment that he had built towards the landlord
‘Every one of you should get Yaka! My wife says its only 150,000 Uganda shillings he asked the men installing them’
‘So how am I going to Umeme to ask them to connect to a building that is not mine?’ the café owner shot back
‘MH just get the forms I will sign for you as your landlord’ he responded with a shrug then went on about how he only uses only a TV, and two lights even though his house close to three bedrooms. As he went on about his advanced energy saving skills the café owner wouldn’t help but feel disgusted at the landlord mumbling to himself had slipped his hands into his pocket, pulled out the balance of the rent and slipped away leaving the landlord mumbling to himself. As he turned away he noticed one the tenants had just arrived in their grey Ipsum.
As he walked away he wouldn’t help but ask himself of all the questions that he had failed to ask the landlord face to face. Was this his nature to ask himself these questions than the people who are supposed to give these answers? It wasn’t the first time that had happened to him but it was usual occurrence he had even failed to ask his girlfriend for sex directly and instead opted to use his mobile phone to do so. As he walked away an idea came to him he had an uncle who worked with Umeme. Pulled out his phone and dialed his number which was quickly covered replaced by the uncles picture a scrappy looking black and white figure glowing at the Centre from his nose upwards. As he stared at the phones small screen a tiny timer started to count starting at zero.
‘Hello Hello Hello uncle’ the café owner screamed shaking the phone in an attempt to get extra signal strength bars on the phone
‘Yes how have you been?’ his uncle asked
He didn’t hear the question and went straight to the point screaming into the ear piece since the area had a reputation of having very poor network even though it was just few meters from the city
‘Uncle uncle I want to get Yaka!’ he screamed back
‘Yaka!?? For what’ he asked back confused
‘For the place I work from’ he replied
‘Problem is I don’t even know where you work from in the first place’ he replied
‘Nansana’ came the quick reply and he had his next question lined up until he heard the reply
‘Well go to Nakulabye offices with a handwritten application saying you want to be connected to Yaka! three passport photos and a letter from the LC1’ he answered before the phone died leaving the café owned more dazed than helped. All along he thought he would by-pass the beuaracracy of the Yaka! offices instead he had been dumped on the front door like all the miserable faces that search for electricity connection for days with no answer the sight of that man forging wiring permits just to get connected to power was a sight he would never forget. That call was the last blow and he switched off the phone to go moonlighting on his other job alongside the café until his head was clear enough to get around the mess he was currently in.
In the evening he jumped off the taxi his heart anxious as to whether there had been a change at the café. He wondered whether any of his neighbors had taken the initiative to pay for Yaka! so business would go on s usual or was everyone passing on the blame to each other like a typical Ugandan highly skilled in implementing the by stander theorem of all theory in the world. as he moved one shop after the other bulbs shorn brighter than Rihanna’s forehead smeared with a thick coat of Vaseline, even the welders who are the perennial consumers of power were hard at work and so were the poultry farm inputs with their heavy stench hanging all over the place where lighting brighter than ever. As he negotiated around the corner of the poultry farm inputs his heart started to beat even louder to extent he would actually here it beating one, two three and more times. His fears were conformed when he negotiated the last corner past the LC1 chairman’s home and noticed the whole place was in darkness since the back light of the landlords house was not lighting. With his fears all but confirmed he moved with an added stride in his movements that increased step after step only to find all the tenants standing at their front doors like war refugees fearing for the worst inside the buildings. The first door was tightly locked under key and lock, the next door was open but in pitch blackness and all one would see was the pink light of the charcoal stove lighting in the back room, next door was the café that was locked since the café girl that day was informed her lovely day off till the Yaka! Mess had been cleared. Lastly was Aysha who was standing next to her door behind her a dull yellow flickering light that was creating shadows dance on the walls every time she moved in to serve a customer munansi or Katunda. As he scanned the environment and compared their side of the darkness with the opposite she saw him and cooked up a conversation before he would ask.
‘Welcome back to darkness’ she announced
‘Thanks for keeping it even darker’ he tried to lighten the moment but he wouldn’t hold back. He wanted to know what the landlord’s next move about power was since it was the second day they were sleeping with no work once again.
‘Nothing’ was her calm answer ‘all he does is move in and move out of his house only sending his son to keep dogging us around’ she explained ‘I think his spying on us’ she concluded while giggling
‘MH and the other people’ he asked
‘What people’ she inquired all confused ‘you mean the other tenants’
‘Yes’ and before she would answer one of the tenants mama Henry walked up to them armed with a chair to join the conversation
‘What did the landlord tell you I saw you giving him money’ she asked
‘ohh I clearing my remaining rent fees’ he answered ‘however I tried to negotiate if it were possible for us all to get sub meters however he insists on each of us getting yaka’ the café owner explained
‘If that’s the case then we are in trouble’ she muttered to herself
‘Why’ Aysha asked inquisitively
‘My husband did the math of getting Yaka! And it will cost each of us a minimum of close to 600,000 Uganda shillings’ she cried
‘Wow’ the café owner screamed
‘And that’s minus the time you waste getting connected to Yaka! Thanks to the beaucacry of Ugandan system’
‘I know’ chipped Aysha before she went on a roll
‘But that man is unfair, I know of a house up there with 10 rental units and they all have Yaka! As their source of power however not all of them have solido from the pole to their houses. All the landlord did was buy the initial yak of 100,000 then installed sub meters into each rental unit and all those who don’t want to pay up are automatically disconnected’
‘Why does he insist on we getting our own Yaka!?’ Asked Mama Henry
‘Because he doesn’t want to lose’ replied Aysha
‘Even then even if we to buy meters to fit into the houses what if I wake up next and am shifting do I have to go with the sub meter?’ asked the café owner
‘I don’t know however if history is to be followed the last two occupants didn’t have luck in carrying them away’ said Aysha
‘I remember Sajjabi the man can mean to be evil he even called Police to evict the poor man over the issue of the meter he had bought himself’ as the two women concurred on the last incident like it happened yesterday.
‘So what is the way forward’ asked the café owner getting frustrated with all this little talk in the dark corners ‘ suggest we call him in a meeting to iron out these little differences’
You are right but what shall we tell him given he insists that he consumes very little power in comparison to the rest of us?’
‘Everyone should get a sub meter including him’ suggested the café owner
‘I am with you on that point’ before they dispersed to get the other tenants to the venue of the meeting. Aysha got busy calling Hajjat who was the newest tenant and fat very quiet lady, Mama Henry got to call her husband to the meeting while the café owner confronted the landlord and his son to the meeting. He went to the mothers stall and inquired and was reliably informed that he had just returned and was at the back to which the café owner reliably informed his son to call him for a short meeting organized by his tenants to iron out the power crisis. The tenants arrived and took their sits on the verandah in front of the café with the lights off except those in Aysha. after ten minutes of waiting Aysha brought up a conspiracy theory saying he was scared of his own tenants that’s why how was not coming for the meeting to which we quickly sent his son to go look for him and the only excuse he would raise was the fact the he didn’t know where his dad was and was not even interested in calling his dad. Then after another twenty minutes he did arrive with half his shirt UN buttoned to which he was invited to the meeting and it kicked off. The tenants agreed to raise each 10,000 Uganda shillings so as to pay as the crisis was being sorted and on collecting it another excuse came up. No one knew how to pay for the power except through going to the Yaka! offices in Nakulabye to which the café owner reliably informed them that was not the case all you did was credit your mobile money account and then pay for the bills through making mobile money transactions. Initially it caused a stir as the tenant’s squabbled saying that was impossible and even one said they had to head to Nakulabye to recharge their Yaka! When it ran out however the café owner insisted that’s how it’s done. The tenants raised 40,000 and the landlord added a little 5,000 Uganda shillings and then came the step by step process of crediting the Yaka! with money. As the meeting went on the landlords son was instructed to process that to which he disappeared in the dark as he ran towards a mobile money outlet ran by a lousy know it all guy called Busulwa who did more talking than serving customers.
Back to the meeting the landlord started by reminding everyone how he had asked each member to get a meter but they had ignored his calls and with Yaka! Now available everyone was being forced to jump on or be locked away in darkness. He spoke for close to five minutes with none of the tenants replying then one of the Tata Henry interrupted him by saying,
‘Thank you for everything you have said however you know each Yaka! Needs its own solido?’
‘No no no you have the wrong information’ answered the landlord ‘my wife asked and they told her its only 150,000 which you can all afford’ as he pulled out his best version of an evil laugh
‘Yes that’s 150,000 however that are only the Yaka! You will need to buy solido then earth the place where it will be connected and that’s before you factor in the waiting period for Yaka! To be finally installed’ he explained as the other tenants listened intently nodding their heads periodically
‘Before we know it would be close to a month before we can even see the light’ he concluded stammering each word as he spoke
‘By the way do you want your house to be filled with solido wire connections since each tenant will be connecting power to his place??’ chipped in the café owner as the landlords evil smile dried away and he started to look down as usual
‘Me I don’t but that idea’ chipped in muzeeyi’s wife ‘it’s very expensive for us and time consuming now like me should I pull a solido to the container I work from??’
‘I think the best solution s fir each one of us to get sub meters I mean even Nabukenya’s house uses them and yet she’s the most complicated landlord’ Aysha said
‘We all buy that but what happens when I decide to shift? Do I have to go with it since its I who bought it?’ asked the café owner
‘That should have been the case but since we have decided to lose I suggest you leave it in the house’ said mama henry ‘I mean I don’t think the landlord wants his house demolished every time a tenant is leaving?’
‘Well I think that will be the case’ said Tata Henry
‘Then be it said the landlord disappointment written all over his face’ the very meters he had banned from the house were the only ones that were practical for use in the house and it was agreed each tenant was to contribute 40,000 to acquire them and the landlord was to fund the process of installing them as well as acquiring the much needed wires.
What had started as a much needed up grade on the power installation that would create great peace of mind for electricity users had led to the closure of businesses as tenants are forced to become electricity conscious so as to consume little power. Fridges are now running for only a maximum of 3 hours a day and those who have deep freezers run them every three days and once they get iced are switched off by the owners. Electricity guzzlers like blenders are on the market for cheap since no one wants to use them at all in the town of a couple hundred people. The habit of landlords poking wires into electricity connections has also died away and so are the Umeme workers who used to patrol the area looking for easy money from those who they thought were ‘stealing’ power. How a technology can make you all electricity consumption conscious still beats my understanding but not Yaka! To give everyone in Bujuuko a scare with its habit of jumping off when empty until we users learnt to use it without jumping off.