we need to stop this national surface cutting


WE had a concept at the school I went to, that described the careless use of pit latrines.

Some people were new to pit latrines, having grown up in the city such as it was in those days, where the toilet facilities involved sitting rather than squatting. Others simply mis-aimed their efforts and left their smelly evidence on the surface for all to see. 

This was called ‘Surface Cutting’.

It is generally impolite to talk about toilets or what goes on inside them, and sometimes it is downright offensive. But bear with me, please, because some days in my part of the world it is too easy to make smelly comparisons of this nature.

The term came to mind this week not because I was in a latrine, but after I observed too much of Kampala and had come to the conclusion that too many of us are ‘Surface Thinkers’ because we do not think much deeper than we can see, and the offensive evidence of this poor aim is there for all to see. 

I happened to drive through three places where road works were being done two weeks ago – in Kitintale, in Kiwatule, and on Kanjokya Street – and I noticed that there was ZERO effort being put into the drainage system.

About four months ago I attended a meeting where Works State Minister John Byabagambi explained to us that, “the biggest enemies of roads are water and soil” because soil clogs drains and forces water to wash road surfaces away. 

None of the contractors I drove past two weeks ago seem to know this – so long as they patch up the road on the surface, their work is done. And it’s been like this for years almost countrywide! Nobody seems to know what goes on below the surface of the road, where ideally there should be a massive, filtered drainage system into some swamps or water treatment centres. 

Then, I was astounded on Thursday morning to find that even at the Serena Kampala Hotel, Uganda’s only five-star luxury hotel (say, “Mbu”) this Surface Thinking is in evidence at the main gate! I hadn’t been there in weeks, but remembered that some months ago somebody had dug up the road to do something – maybe just to dig up the road 

Believe it or not, up to now, April 2013, the front of the Serena Kampala Hotel is a pile of mud! It is here that we host potential investors and visiting heads of state, and where the wealthy go to relax and make merry. They all park their cars in a pile of mud for a smiling security guard to check for bombs before letting them into what their website says is, “an inspirational blend of 5-star polish, pan-African panache, social style and business reliability…in the heart of Kampala.”

I hope the Uganda Investment Authority conference the other week at the Sheraton Kampala was held there instead of the Serena because of this pile of mud.

The Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) has lots of work to do. On the letters page of Sunday Vision some weeks ago was a photo of a fellow washing his shoes in what the paper called a “pothole”, but which was actually a clogged roadside drain. The fellow washing his shoes was clad in a pair of brown overalls with the words ‘KCCA Maintenance…(something)’ on the back. The irony was as stark as a fresh case of Surface Cutting.

Then on Tuesday The New Vision ran two stories side by side as if to prod the heads of KCCA so they think below the garbage: ‘KCCA choking on garbage as disposal site fills to brim’ read one, containing lamentations by Lubaga Town Clerk Abel Asiimwe Bimbona and ‘Residents make briquettes out of garbage’ read the other, about Kawempe residents using garbage to make charcoal briquettes. The very next day, they ran another story titled, ‘KCCA collecting 31,000 tonnes of garbage monthly’. 

Meanwhile, the National Planning Authority, just after launching ‘Vision 2040’, discovered that it had not made sufficient arrangements to pay 170 district planners and drivers who drove down to Kampala for the launch ceremony. What more can one say about that?

Then Isaac Musumba and Parliamentarian Michael Mawanda got arrested in India under odd circumstances to do with US$37million (Ushs96billion) allegedly owed to Musumba’s client. That’s just under 10% of Uganda’s entire GDP as per 2012 figures (CIA Factbook) yet I have never heard of this gentleman Musumba represents. The money is from some minerals deal nobody talks about yet government statistics say ALL our minerals combined in 2011 were valued at UShs178billion.

Really?

Meanwhile the MP, Mawanda, says he was just hanging about in India when Musumba and his client bumped into him and asked him to escort them as they were going about their business. The mind boggles to hear an adult man costing the Ugandan tax-payer tens of millions of shillings every month to do work in Uganda, confessing that he was loitering in India!

This Surface Thinking is the mental equivalent of Surface Cutting because we leave behind piles of evidence of our failing to aim our efforts correctly.

And it smells.

Really bad.

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