COVID-19

Museveni’s #covid19 challenges: 30 pushups and the chief giver

Uganda is registering successes in the fight against #covid19. President Museveni has made calculated moves that have helped to ‘scatter the dry grass’ to avert the fires. The coronavirus is the fire. The people are the grass. You scatter the grass by enforcing social distancing measures. Love or hate him, Museveni has a mastery of the language, especially how to use analogies and anecdotes to get his message across to everyone. The majority of Ugandans are small scale farmers. They know what it means to scatter the grass to prevent the fire from catching their crops and houses.

Many people understood what it means to keep a distance. I am sure some people are sleeping meters apart, which could also help reduce the birth rate otherwise feared to skyrocket following the lockdown where people are just at home and idle! Which means they have a lot of time to eat the honey.

Enter the first challenge: 30 pushups…

After issuing several directives, specifically, stay-at-home measures, many Ugandans suddenly found themselves eating more than they sweat. The body hates sitting or sleeping just after a big meal, Ugandan style. And so the body mass index could go the wrong way unless the body is made to sweat. Many pictures started circulating on social media showing crowds of people doing road runs and group exercises oblivious to the social distancing rules.

President Museveni, a General, had to demonstrate to Ugandans how to conduct indoor exercises to stay fit. He demonstrated some warmup exercises by jogging in his expansive office at State House, after which he did 30 pushups. Yes, 30 pushups by a 74 old first. There must be very few Presidents who can do that.

This challenge was timely as it helped provide alternatives to many people and removed them from exercising in the streets. I call this leadership.  Social media is not full of clips of people attempting the President’s challenge of 30 pushups. I am sure many will continue attempting the challenge even when the lockdown is over.

Who is the chief giver?

How do you mobilize resources from the general public without undermining the role of government in providing the needed relief aid and support to those in need?

Find a way of making giving and donations to the cause very competitive.

To this end, President Museveni called for contributions from the public and all rich people out there to come in and provide support to the #covid19 task force. He specifically asked for new vehicles to aid the movements of health workers and first responders in managing the pandemic. To avoid duplications and unnecessary noise, he provided the official channels to provide any support while warning anyone out there providing support to people directly. Effectively, other political parties had to channel any contribution through the official government task force.

And so the competition for the chief giver started.

First was UBA Bank which gave the US $150,000. Then Diamond Trust Bank with Ugx. 250,000,000. Then the Buganda Kingdom with Ugx. 100,000,000. The Bunyoro Kingdom too followed with Ugx. 60,000,000. And so many other entities.

We all waited for the top boys who rake in millions of shillings from this country. We know telecoms, breweries, beverages to mention but three sectors are the mass-market companies that make lots of money and are always on top of the taxpayers’ list. We waited for their announcements.

And so Century Bottling Company, the makers of Coca Cola, kicked the giving with 187 empty jerrycans. No one indeed gives what they do not have, but this is a beverage company? What if it had filled these jerrycans with water and save their plastic bottles? Give it to Ugandans, they had to even edit a video which has been circulating on social media showing how laughable this was given that Coca is one of the largest companies. It is good that the company clarified and even made further giving to the cause.

But this would have passed had Crown Beverages, the maker of the Pepsi Cola brand and a major competitor in the soft drinks market, had not took the giving to a whole new level.

Pepsi donated over Ugx. 870,000,000, over 100 cartons of bottled water, and double cabin vehicles. This donation dwarfed what other companies had given. Suddenly, many other companies that had not given came with some sizeable offers.

MTN offered to cover the cost of SMS awareness messaging to the Ministry. Airtel offered free data. Since these are open cheques, we are yet to know the total value donated. Also, MTN offered free water in partnership with National Water and Sewerage Corporation delivered through the Uganda Red Cross Society to the vulnerable communities.

To date, over 50 organizations, entities, and individuals have come out to support the cause. To these and many other Ugandans are very grateful. Whether you donate empty jerrycans or money, you can only give what you have. The intention is what matters.

Keep giving. Keep up the fight. We shall overcome.

And thanks to President Museveni for these challenges. It is good to have fun while doing something as noble as fighting coronavirus to keep the country safe.

Happy Easter Monday.

Copyright Mustapha B Mugisa, 2020. All rights reserved.

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