I FELT sympathetic towards the Vice President, His Excellency Edward Sekandi, and his ministerial colleague the Honourable Ruth Nankabirwa, when the photographs started circulating depicting both of them wearing those colourful blazers.
My sympathies were mostly out of the feeling that they had both coincidentally fallen prey to a prankster fashion adviser, but I half suspected that they were going to be part of a flash mob arrangement that would astonish the nation.
For those who don’t know what a flash mob is, it’s an internet or social media phenomenon in which a large group of people assemble and do ordinary things in a public location, then break out suddenly into a performance or dance.
It is normally highly entertaining and artistic. Normally.
Had they broken into song and dance during the State of the Nation address, they would have certainly stolen a lot of attention from the President’s speech – but just appearing in those blazers was enough to do so for a while.
Without knocking them for having poor fashion sense, I must clarify here that they have a right to wear whatever they wish to wear provided they are comfortable in their skin and the chosen garb.
The colours of the blazer, though, reflected less of our national ones than those of a medieval English court jester – the same fellow that appears on the card called ‘The
Maybe, as in the card game, the Excellent Sekandi was going to make Parliament pick five members of cabinet that very afternoon? Or had someone been playing it the night before and got hit by a joker that forced them to pick five MPs to wear the blazers?
Luckily, by turning up in those vivid colours they inadvertently underscored one of my favourite points of the day’s Address:
“The shilling depreciates because we import too much and we export little and, mainly, of low value…a total of US$5.528 billion per year. This huge amount of money goes for textiles (US$888million), leather goods (US$0.22million), fruit products (US$20.2million), second hand cars (US$568.7million), carpets, etc. etc. All these can now be made here…Government institutions, without exception, must buy locally made products provided they are of good quality and comparable price. That, however, should not be an excuse for continuing to import what can be made here. If the quality is not yet perfect, discuss with the manufacturers how that can be improved.”
And then the President warned that if we don’t change our mindsets and actions, “We shall continue to run a supermarket for foreign products but which we call a country.”
At that point, the cameramen covering the event should have focused all their lenses
onto the kaleidoscopic blaze that was Uganda’s second highest Executive Officer. Possibly out of consideration for the need to avoid causing nationwide optical nerve damage, or afraid of triggering mass epileptic fits, they did not do so.
See, the focus on those blazers would have been apt because we have since heard that the blazers were designed and made in Germany – that’s the country in Europe.
We could have guessed as much since, as Sekandi and Nankabirwa may not have noticed, the blazing garments were decked out in the colours of the German flag rather than the Ugandan one.
For some of us, the first conclusion was that the Parliament of Uganda had done the Procurement and distribution, since the blazers appeared to have the Parliamentary symbols awkwardly positioned on the sleeves.
Hellen Kawesa, of Parliament, however confirmed that the Parliament team was approached by someone vending the jackets but declined to get involved. I didn’t press further as to why the person who refused to engage the vendor on behalf of Parliament didn’t advise the NRM Chief Whip or the Vice President of the folly they had identified within the stripes.
Because thereafter, it turns out, the vendor went to the Office of the Chief Whip of the NRM, and the rest is a blazing remake of Joseph and the amazing technicolour dreamcoat!
One media report had it that the designer of the things was a Ugandan resident in Germany, who has probably been there so long that she easily confuses both country’s flag arrangements, or was certain that our people here wouldn’t tell the difference and would wear them proudly oblivious.
Still, the fact that the designer was Ugandan gave us a shadow of hope that not all was lost – at least a Ugandan was involved at the creation stage besides those involved at the cringe-inducing wearing end of the damn blazers.
But a lot was lost in allowing this to happen, as is lost every single time a Ugandan buys an item of clothing (or anything else) from abroad when it can be very well reproduced here.
To begin with, there is an amazing array of young and old designers in this country who spend their days and nights coming up with fantastic clothing concepts, some of which I will speak about in more detail later, but that speak for themselves whenever I am out in public.
Plus, as the President pointed out, we grow large amounts of cotton and other fabric raw materials here that can be put to good use making blazers that are less visually assaulting.
If the cameras had panned to the Vice President and the blazing five while the
President was making declarations about how seriously issues would be dealt with during the next five years, the TV caption would have read something like: “Political Suicide By Means of Apparel” or, perhaps, “Curtains On THESE political careers”.
But only because those particular jackets stood out so garishly; otherwise, most of the room would have been convicted.
If any good came of those blazers making their glaring debut this week, it is the opportunity to tell all public figures in Uganda to please lead the way in buying Ugandan!
Stop being “smart” in imported clothes and, for heaven’s sake, don’t be so shabby and awkward in them either!
Next week we will tune in to watch the proceedings at the Budget reading and I hope some media house calculates the value of the clothing being worn by the politicians and shows us how much money the country lost as a direct result of their shopping foreign instead of Buying Ugandan, Building Uganda.