NTUNGAMO – About 200 nursery bed operators from the districts of Kabale, Kisoro, Kanungu, Rubanda, Rukiga, Rukungiri, Ntungamo, Isingiro, Mbarara Kamwenge and Mitooma have demanded a meeting with President Museveni to resolve their standoff with government over failure to pay them Shs143 billion for the tea seedlings they supplied three years ago.
During a meeting held at Kanungu district council hall in Kanungu town Council on Tuesday, January 7, 2020, the nursery bed operators tasked the Kanungu Resident District Commissioner, Hajj Shafique Ssekandi, to arrange a meeting between them and the President for a way forward.
“We have seen President Museveni bailing out several individuals and business groups that encounter financial challenges and I feel he can be of help in solving our current financial problems,” Mr Alex Tumuhimbise from Mitooma district said.
Hajji Ssekandi (RDC) asked the tea nursery bed operators to ask for permission from the police before organizing the fundraising to avoid contravening public order management act.
He accepted to inform Mr Museveni about their request.
“President Museveni is aware of the challenges that you are going through and very soon the problem will be fixed because when we recently met him, we thoroughly briefed him. I am ready to request for an appointment so that you can meet him and brief him more. If the government can accept to form the Tea Development Authority as it did for Coffee, I hope the current challenges of tea growing in this region will be no more,” Hajji Ssekandi said.
He added that when President Museveni launched tea growing in Kanungu district in 2008, there was only one tea processing factory but now they are five and others have been established in Kabale and Kisoro districts.
“This means that the tea-growing is a viable enterprise that requires attention of government now that it is benefiting the local people that are directly employed in the management of tea estates and the farmers that earn a lot of money from the green tea leaves they supply to the established tea processing factories,” Hajji Ssekandi said.
Kanungu Chief Administrative Officer Alex Kwizera said that his office supports the nursery bed operators to be paid because it is the one that verified the tea seedlings that were supplied at that time.
“Whereas it is true that nursery bed operators sued Kanungu local government together with the Naads secretariat for failure to pay them for the tea seedlings they supplied, as the chief administrative officer I support them to be paid because it’s my office that verified all the seedlings they supplied and there is no reason why they should not be paid,” Mr Kwizera said.
The former commissioner for planning in the ministry of Health Dr Francis Runumi said that failure to pay the nursery bed operators will negatively affect the NRM party politics in the area because most them will not be able to participate in the party primary and general elections the fact that they are financially handicapped.
“Majority of nursery bed operators have always been strong campaign agents for the NRM party in this region and the fact that they spend much of the time hiding for fear of being arrested by money lenders, the NRM may lose their committed support in the fourth coming elections. Personally I wanted to defend my position as the NRM flag bearer for Kabale Municipality parliament seat but now that the government rejected paying me for the tea seedlings I supplied, I will not participate in the fourth coming NRM party elections,” Dr Runumi said.