TOTAL CHAOS…as corruption claims, infighting engulf Trade ministry


Everything that can go wrong in a ministry has happened to Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives (MTIC) which is the docket responsible for formulating, reviewing and supporting policies, strategies, plans and programs that promote and ensure expansion and diversification of trade, cooperatives, environmentally sustainable industrialization, appropriate technology development and transfer to generate wealth for poverty eradication and benefit the country socially and economically.

The Cabinet Minister is elderly Mwebesa Francis along with others like David Bahati (state minister for Industry), Ntabazi Harriet (State Minister for Trade) and Frederick Ngobi Gume (State Minister for Cooperatives). The Permanent Secretary is Geraldine Ssali.


There is so much turmoil that many young technocrats who are still building their careers and consider themselves schooled openly criticize elderly Mwebesa whom they perceive conservative and Stone Age type. These have even gone ahead to create a WhatsApp group using the GB version where they pour their frustrations knowing that he can’t track them. They look at him as an old and sickly man (he is always in and out of Dubai hospitals) who should be in retirement. According to insiders, some officials accuse Mwebesa of ever giving directives and expecting immediate execution without questioning. Whereas they acknowledge that he is knowledgeable and experienced in trade and industry areas, they feel, through education, know one or two things. But Mwebesa reportedly always disregards their views. “He [Mwebesa] can take a long time to understand certain things but once he grasps the idea, he defends it to the dot,” an insider told us. Sources told us that sometimes he gives these directives verbally and convincing him to put them in writing for future references is also always a source of acrimony. There is an issue to do with two staffers at the ministry who are allegedly related to Mwebesa biologically (it is not clear if they are his biological children though they pose as one). These are Theo Toepista and one Sebastian. Insiders say they are like his top confidants and are ever sniffing into each and every matter as long as it concerns money. Some of those trade matters or deals include fishnets, timber, rice and others. It is not clear if they act with the knowledge of Mwebesa or not.


It is also claimed that Minister Bahati is not happy at the ministry. That sometimes he can sit in his office the whole day with hands on his face or chin cutting a dejected, defeated, disappointed mind or look. Sources say his docket is not as lucrative as that of Finance where he was before. We have now learnt that he sometimes sniffs into the affairs of Trade docket which is under Harriet and that of Gume (Cooperatives) with hope of getting some work to do but it has sometimes ended in silent clashes. That he fights his battles silently but deadly. That sometimes Ntabazi feels pity for him and delegates him to some international and local trips such that he can get some perdiem and pretend to be working also. Tit for Tat? It goes without mention that while at Finance, Bahati was one of those who backed plans to move the investment docket from trade ministry to finance. It worked and that’s how Evelyn Anites’ of this world became Minister of State Privatization and Investment. The same to do with Free zones and as well exports promotion. Little did he know that he could one day be moved to the trade ministry. This now explains why he has not many assignments on his desk and it is frustrating him day and night. He has reportedly found solace in moving with his friend Anite preaching industrialization gospel.


Some officials refer to her as a villager at the ministry. However the likes of Bahati have since tested her wrath when they attempted to sniff into her trade docket. The way she has managed KACITA traders as far as textiles and garments imports are concerned have proved her doubters wrong. She is also into BUBU gospel and all these continue to annoy her adversaries. Some technocrats reportedly resent her for being incorruptible. Recently she has been caught up in the rice trade storm. But sources say she is paying the price for rejecting a bribe from one of the top commissioners aka Emma at the ministry amounting between Shs60m to 80m. That this commissioner, who was representing some four big rice import players, wanted her to soften her stance towards realigning the rice trade which she objected to. This is a story for another day. There are also allegations that the haranguing she is getting from parliament is because she did not understand a shs50m-10m language from some legislators’ to back off the matter.  It however goes without mention that no rice trade permitting or license can be issued without the involvement of Mwebesa and the Commissioner external trade Emmanuel Mutahunga.


Sources say this one has since opened war against technocrats and politicians who are sniffing into his cooperatives docket.


We shall not talk about the PS today because hers is a voluminous document that needs serialization. All we can report is that the PS, sources say, is still nursing a heartbreak from a top city lawyer and once she heals, we shall reveal everything.

Watch this space!



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