By Alex Balimwikungu
When Godfrey Kiwanda Ssubi was made State Minister for Tourism on June 1, 2016, he set a personal target.
Then a first time minister, he vowed to deliver 4 million visitors to Uganda! Five years later he had exceeded expectations.
He was so immersed in his role marketing Uganda as a travel destination’ most of his speeches were punctuated by the term Performance Indicator.
Peers nicknamed him Mr. Performance Indicator. Statistics about the great performance in local tourism reeled off his tongue with ease. He was a performing minister who abandoned the air-conditioned boardroom for the bushes. It was master stroke.
Kiwanda was like those brand managers who become bigger than the brands they are paid to promote. He lived, breathed and ate Tourism.
He was so immersed in his role; one could easily conclude he was God’s gift to Uganda’s tourism. The recent cabinet reshuffle found Kiwanda on local TV. He was part of a panel discussing politics. As the names of new ministers reeled off the screen, he was conspicuously absent.
Have you ever imagined a death-row inmate a few yards from the electric chair? That was Kiwanda’s look. Disbelief and disgust were visible as he shifted uneasily in his seat. It never helped matters that he was goaded by fellow panelists for being overzealous in his role. Could it have been his undoing?
Former Leader of Opposition, Winnie Kizza once blasted him. This was after Kiwanda labored to explain the “Miss Curvy” contest on the floor of parliament.
“Together with my colleagues of Uganda Women Parliamentary Association, we condemn acts of objectifying and dehumanizing women. The minister should have known that women are more than just bodies, and so we should be treated with honour and respect,” Winnie Kiiza complained.
Kiwanda was adamant. He insisted the concept of Miss Curvy Uganda is no different from other beauty pageants that only celebrate slender and slim women.
“Many Ugandans celebrated the achievements of Miss World Africa Quiin Abenakyo. Why are they against the Miss Curvy Uganda pageant which also rides on the same concept – but this time on more endowed women?”
Although he insisted that the pageant was aimed at marketing Uganda across borders and promoting tourism, activists perceived the contest as demeaning the dignity of women in the country.
The confusion that marred the finals of the Miss Curvy wrote a death knell on the future of the controversial awards.
Enter Fabiola, Zari
After launching the Miss Curvy competition, Kiwanda embarked on traversing Eastern Uganda with Anita Fabiola and Zari as a means of exposing Uganda’s nature to the outside world. Bad idea.
Once he got within breathing distance of Fabiola, He was accused of behaving in a manner that was inconsistent with the best interests of the country. In some of the pictures he looked like he was ready to unleash his passions on the tourism ambassador. Social media was abuzz.
The State Minister distanced from the pictures where he was seen “smitten” with socialite Fabiola. He called it the work of Photoshop. It never stopped the public from questioning the “Tulambule initiative”
Ugandans on social media tore him to shreds. They pointed to something peculiar about his choice of ambassadors; punching holes in his marketing strategies and questioning the credibility of campaign.
Kiwanda’s wife, Veronica Nannono joined him on the trip to mark her territory perhaps after looking at a picture of him and Fabiola on a raft.
Kiwanda responded by adding Zari on the trail. Many will remember him as the minister who hobnobbed with Zari during the #Tulambule ne Zari tourism campaign.
The two light skins (Fabiola and Zari) have public hatred for each other. It pitting them together, Kiwanda tried to play knight in shining armour and failed spectacularly. The stage was set for the Miss Uganda pageant finale. Zari refused to read the list of winners.
This is after the MC of the night, Anita Fabiola referred to Zari as ‘mama’ while inviting her on stage to read out the winners.
Guess who was giving expert opinion on the beef between the two? It was minister Kiwanda. He tried defending both but made a fool out of himself.
“I think they have a misunderstanding but they shouldn’t have thrown their misunderstandings to the public. That kind of character isn’t good. We all have misunderstandings with different people but we never show that in public.” He suggested.
Sections of the public branded the minister petty. To his credit though, he was a minister who never delegated. Whether it was a rolex, nsenene or pork festival you always counted on him to attend.
State Minister for Tourism Godfrey Kiwanda is perhaps one unlucky man.
All his initiatives to promote local tourism were well thought but somehow the zeal was too much. Is that what angered the appointing authority? We can only speculate. All eyes will be on Hon. Martin Mugarra, the new Minister of State for Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities