‘Madness’ makes Batanda’s dreams come true by Racheal Ninsiima


Photo credit: Edward Echwalu

Success is measured differently by different people.

For some, it is the contentment that comes with putting food on the table; for others, it is the sought-after job promotion, and yet others it is fame and wealth.

But for the outspoken, bespectacled and fair-skinned Jackee Budesta Batanda, it is the ecstasy that comes with living one’s dream. Her success as a writer, a dream she has nurtured since childhood, is awe-inspiring.

It won her some of the world’s coveted awards such as the Macmillan Writer’s prize which recognizes unpublished African fiction for children and the 2004 African regional winner for the Commonwealth short story competition.

Read full article in the Observer.


Changing the perceptions of pole dancing

I met Anita Jack at a business conference in Los Angeles in 2013 and was surprised to learn that she is also a pole dancer. Stop. Not the raunchy videos but rather as an athletic sport. I interviewed her to help me debunk the stereotypes we all have around pole dancing and to understand it as a sport. The Sunday Independent published on Sunday 23 February 2014.

Changing the perceptions of pole dancing

Uganda’s anti-gay bill outs the country as anti-human rights

In a newsletter to their mailing list, The Atlantic Wire highlighted my op-ed in the Guardian as one its best columns of 3 March 2014. I was at number 3.

Jackee Budesta Batanda at The Guardian on Uganda’s anti-gay bill. “In a country struggling with high unemployment, the youth need an outlet to vent the frustrations ailing them, and the LGBTI community is the current unfortunate scapegoat. The newly signed bill, the outing of people and western countries withholding aid combine to make a perfect recipe for pre-meditated attacks on the LGBTI community,” Budesta Batanda writes. “Discussion on the anti-gay bill in most cases turns into a black and a white debate; there is no grey line and it more or less ends up in name-calling with critics of the bill quickly labelled as homosexuals or gay lovers. This shows the failure for many people to understand that the bill might lead to potential cases of human rights violations for a minority within the country. The bill can now be seen as a yardstick to measure the level of tolerance – or lack of it – within the country. And by the looks of it, it is hitting an all time low.”

Read full op-ed here.

Real estate development is still the safest way to invest by Francois Griessel and Jackee Budesta Batanda

Real estate development is still the safest way to investInvesting in real estate is still the surest way to make any meaningful returns. Photo by Ismail Kezaala. 
World over, real estate remains the best investment vehicle, and the easiest and safest way for people to invest and make money. Over the last couple of years, there has been a real estate boom in Uganda. While some analysts have pointed to a potential bubble within the real estate industry, for the savvy investor, this is still one of the best ways to build assets, create wealth and earn a passive income.

One reason for this is that there will always be a need for a roof over one’s head, office space and many other needs related to real estate. In Uganda when banks increased interest rates on mortgages, many people were negatively affected because the new rates impacted on their lifestyles.

You might have read articles about key city businessmen losing their properties to banks and the banks being stuck with houses they had foreclosed on. The real estate market seems tricky now, and for some, your fingers have might been burnt, so to speak.

In these articles we show that the secrets to real estate investment include educating oneself, learning how to identify good property deals, putting deals together and raising capital. With property, you can diversify your investment portfolio. We will also show how you can eventually diversify your portfolio by having properties in other markets around the world.

Read more: Daily Monitor

Meeting Arnold Schwarzenegger and Donna Karan at Mega Partnering VII in Los Angeles, California

I attended the seventh edition of the world famous Mega Partnering wealth networking summit took place in Los Angeles, California 7-10 June 2013 at the Westin LAX hotel. 800 business people from 27 countries around the world attended the event to network and create new partnerships.

Jackee at Mega Partnering LA

Jackee Batanda at Mega Partnering VII Los Angeles

A number of high net worth speakers shared their experiences and tips. The event primarily serves as a networking event for business people and has been tagged as the World Economic Forum of the business world.

The speakers included JT FOXX, a top business coach, serial entrepreneur, real estate investor and top marketing authority, and founder of Mega Partnering. He spoke on the different business models he has successfully applied to his own empire.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, California’s 38th governor, Hollywood action hero, environmentalist and successful businessman. Schwarzenegger took time off the shooting of the film to share his key steps to success:

  • Have a vision
  • Never thinking small
  • Ignoring the naysayers
  • Working hard
  • Ultimately giving back to society.
    JT Foxx, Jackee and Arnold Schwarzenegger at Mega Partnering LA

    JT Foxx, Jackee and Arnold Schwarzenegger at Mega Partnering VII in Los Angeles
    Photo credit: JT Foxx Organisation


Donna Karan, one of the most legendary female entrepreneurs and fashion icons and founder of Urban Zen Foundation, shared her beginnings working under Anne Klein to the building of her empire, which started out as a desire to create fashionable clothes for herself and her friends, and later developed into two world renowned brands- Donna Karan and DKNY. Her Urban Zen Foundation, started after her husband’s death provides palliative support to terminally ill patients and the program is being replicated by different university hospitals. The foundation focuses on changing, “current healthcare paradigm to include integrative medicine and promote patient advocacy.”

JT Foxx, Jackee and Donna Karan at Mega Partnering LA (1)

JT Foxx, Jackee and Donna Karan at Mega Partnering VII in Los Angeles
Photo credit: JT Foxx Organisation

The summit was packed with lots of doses of inspiration and positive energy. Never experienced so much ‘I can do’ in one place like I did at Mega VII last week.

The networking and partnerships I built over the four days were awesome.

Mega Partnering comes to South Africa for the first next month 5-7 July 2013 at the Sandton Convention Center. See you all there!

A leak in high places puts Ugandans on edge

Photo: Ronald Kabuubi/AFP/GettyImages

KAMPALA, Uganda — Kampala is in an uproar. The Ugandan government has just shut down four private media outlets — a move that follows a crackdown on journalists from the Daily Monitor newspaper a few days earlier. The government’s anger was prompted by a story in the paper said to reveal details of a plan by senior officials to assassinate rivals opposed to a scheme by President Yoweri Museveni to arrange for his son to succeed him in office. By exposing deep rifts within the ruling establishment, the paper has shaken Uganda’s political establishment to the core.

The Monitor quoted extensively from a letter by a senior intelligence officer, General David Sejusa, calling for an investigation into claims that the government is planning to target opponents of the so-called “Muhoozi Project,” an alleged plan to pave the way for 39-year-old Brigadier Kainerugaba Muhoozi (pictured left), commander of an elite army unit, to take over the presidency. The state-owned Uganda Communications Commission (which controls licensing) warned radio stations that they would be shut down for airing the story of Gen. Sejusa’s letter.

Read more: Transitions

Writing on the next big thing: My novel in progress, A Lesson in Forgetting

Jo-Anne Richards, author of The Imagined Child, invited me to participate in the The Next Big Thing Challenge. I am inviting other writers to participate in this challenge; Benon Herbert Oluka,  Mildred Kiconco, Beverley Nambozo, David Tumusiime and Brian Bwesigye

Ten Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing 

What is your working title of your book?

A Lesson in Forgetting

Where did the idea come from for the book?

After reading an article about the presidential pardons and subsequent releases of former henchmen during Idi Amin’s time, I was curious about the reasons for their acceptance of the pardon and how their return would affect the families who had lost their loved ones during this time.

What genre does your book fall under?


Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I have not yet thought about the movie cast for the book.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A former spy chief in a dictatorial regime is released after 25 years in life imprisonment. His return reawakens a country’s amnesia of the past and explores how nations and its people helplessly deal with the mechanisms set up to handle past atrocities and heal wrongs.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? 

By agency

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

It is a work in progress. I have been working on it intermittently since 2010.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Thomas E Kennedy’s, In the Company of Angels.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I read newspaper reports on the release of former spy masters in Uganda who had been serving life imprisonment. Their release raised debate in the country on the morality of their release and what it meant for fragile healing the country was going through to forget its atrocious past. I was curious to capture this event in our history.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

A Lesson in Forgetting unlike numerous stories that locate the isolating impact of warfare upon wives, lovers and /or mothers, addresses the relation within the family, in this case father and daughter.

 Full synopsis of A Lesson in Forgetting

Sometimes families keep secrets in the belief that they are protecting their loved ones. Sometimes these secrets are too big to remain hidden forever. They burst open and come to haunt the protectors and protected

A Lesson in Forgetting unlike numerous stories that locate the isolating impact of warfare upon wives, lovers and /or mothers, addresses the relation within the family, in this case father and daughter.  The story revolves around Nasser, a former henchman in Idi Amin’s Uganda, who is released from prison twenty-five years after he was arrested and sentenced to death, and his feisty daughter Naboro, who was always told that her father had died a hero. Set in the backdrop of the 2006 presidential elections, Nasser’s release is part of the incumbent president’s attempt to improve his tarnished image within the international community. Nasser on return from the ‘dead’ attempts to build a relationship with his daughter, he must face and own up to his past crimes against humanity. His return disrupts the peaceful life his daughter is building for herself as she readies for her wedding. Her mother announces that her dead father is no longer dead but rather returning from prison. Naboro has to deal with the blow of the lie her life has been built around. Furthermore everyone else has been in the know of the closely guarded secret. As she comes to terms with the fact that her father was a man scorned and feared by many Ugandans, she learns that her fiancé’s family was a victim of her father’s brutality. Torn between her love and family ties, she follows in her mother’s footsteps, who got estranged from her family when she married Nasser. Her fiancé is pressured by his family to break off the wedding plans. She is devastated because his return is the cause of her breakup with her fiancé. The story explores Nasser’s life in the army, what motivates him and his loyalty to Idi Amin, Zahara’s love story and the decision to keep the truth of his incarceration from Naboro the last child born immediately after his arrest.

It explores Zahara’s loyalty to Nasser all these years because he helped her live her dreams of being a fashion designer. He opened doors for her and did not laugh at her when no one believed that designers could make a living in the Uganda of the 60s. She is selectively blind to her husband’s deeds although she knows that times are bad. She is silent about the mass disappearances and buries herself in her fashion world. On return from prison, Nasser asks his wife for forgiveness. On return he is a more religious man and wants to impose his beliefs on the family he finds behind. His transformation from an all powerful torturer to a religious man does not endear him to Naboro, who has read a lot more about her father’s deeds in the papers.

His return reawakens a country’s amnesia of the past and explores how nations and its people helplessly deal with the mechanisms set up to handle past atrocities and heal wrongs. The story brings the family into the larger context of a nation having to move on from legacies of past conflict, but with the ethical dilemmas of having to ask how one lives on, at the level of dailiness, with the knowledge of what a neighbour, a family member, is capable of in the name of ideology. How do communities, nations, and families live with people caught up in political fervour to the point of perpetrating crimes against humanity? What does one do with the ‘ghosts’ of national violence? These people inhabit the everyday, and their presence is a reminder of the limits one should not cross in the name of ideology and they are a source of acute guilt and grief, confusion when they are loved ones as will be explored in this novel. The novel explores the silences of parents and children, what they know and hide from their children because of the consequences they know might affect the stability in their lives. The silences in the book will work as metaphors for the larger struggle to find a language with which to address one another when an agent of such violence reappears to take his place in the everyday.

Dreaming of a new Jerusalem

FAITH (not her real name) is in her 20s, tall and slender. She wears a red T-shirt. A checked cotton skirt peeps out from under the threadbare maroon towel wrapped around her waist. Her blue-cloth shoes have seen many washing days. She carries her 21-month-old daughter in one arm and clutches a phone in her free hand. Faith has lived in Jerusalem, an informal settlement between Boksburg and Germiston, since 2006, but only started playing Fafi last year.

She is one of many. Gloria Azwidohi Ramasunzi, 52, one of the first residents and proprietor of the only crèche in the settlement, says Jerusalem was created in 1998 after the Jordan Mining Company closed. Ramasunzi came to Jerusalem in May 1998 from Goodhope. “People said Jerusalem had space. So we came and started to build shacks.” The shacks are made of old bricks, iron sheets, car tyres, cardboard and whatever materials the residents come up with.

There are salons, a metal furniture shop and spaza shops. There is no electricity. Many of the women who have no jobs make a little money through gambling. Faith speaks softly when she talks about the Fafi numbers game. “Fafi or the China Game is about a Chinese girl who used to gamble with black p e o p l e ,” she says. Players choose which numbers to gamble based on what they dreamt the night before. A group representative takes the bets in one bag to the “China Man”, or “Fafi ”, as they call him.

“He comes at 12.30pm and at 5pm,” says Faith. “We bet on numbers ranging from 1 to 36. He gives  number and each person who wrote the winning number wins.” From memory, she recounts the numbers and their meanings, giving insight into the dreams of those who play: “1. King. 2 Monkey. 3. Big Water. 4. Dead. 5 Tiger. 6. Cow. 7. Knife. 8. Pregnant woman. 9. Hat or blood. 10. Eggs. 11. Small car. 12. Dead woman. 13. Big fish. 14. Granny. 15. Bitch. 16. Cloth. 17. A beautiful woman. 18. Silver money or gold. 19. Girls. 20. Cat 21. Elephant. 22. Big car. 23. Horse. 24. Mouth. 25. Big house. 26. Soldier. 27. Police. 28. Shoes. 29. Small water. 30. Pastor. 31. Fire. 32. Money. 33. Boys. 34. Fees. 35. Hole. 36. Gun.”

“When I dream about my father,” she says, “I know that when Fafi comes, I will write 1 or 4 or 30. I choose the numbers that represent my dad.” Bets and payouts are limited, she says. “If I bet five bob [50 cents] and my number is the one Fafi says, then I win R14. If I bet with R2, Fafi pays me R56 if I win. (Read full article: Dreaming of a new Jerusalem March 3 2013 )

Homeless: Sleeping outside, in silent protest

First published in the M&G online on January 31, 2013:

Following the police incidence in which, Mido Macia, a Mozambican taxi driver was dragged on the streets of Johannesburg and later died from his injuries, I repost an article I published early in the year based on interviews with homeless migrants in Pretoria and their interactions with the South African police and other institutions.

Nasfim Kapley, a migrant from Ethiopia, indicates the spaces he navigates in Pretoria.
Photo: Jackee Budesta Batanda

We first meet Patrick Naimana on a Tuesday evening at a soup kitchen outreach with staff from the Tswhane Leadership Foundation. We ask him whether we can meet with more of his colleagues for an interview. He agrees to set up the meeting.

Home for Naimana and his colleagues is a car park on Prinsloo Street next to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) offices on Francis Baard Street (formerly Schoeman Street). This is the first stop for the soup kitchen van after it leaves the foundation’s premises.

A man emerges from the shadows and comes to the van when we park. He says he will run and alert the others. The lilt of his voice makes me know that he is from Uganda. I can trace that accent anywhere. I learn his name is John.

John returns with five men. One of them, Mohammed, stands tall and distinguished. He softly requests for two soup bowls. We want to chat with him but he is hesitant to talk. He asks if we can return another time. He tells us to ask for Mohammed. He says he is from Somalia and has to rush back to his ailing brother. His brother, he says, is sick and is lying under a tree. He needs to take him food. He dashes off into the darkness.

Naimana interjects that the metro police beat up Mohammed’s brother. He is too weak to walk but is getting better he says, but needs prayers. We promise to say a prayer for him.

We schedule an interview and exchange numbers with Naimana. He tells us to be in Pretoria at 6am before everyone leaves in search for the day’s meal. We agree to have breakfast with them.

Breaking the news
On the Friday morning, when we arrive at the car park a little after 6am, we find that Naimana has spoken to his colleagues about us as promised. We have carried breakfast to share with the group. We set up the picnic basket and put clothes on the grass which will serve as our mats. Breakfast is tea, coffee, a mix of vegetable and meat sandwiches, and apples.

Naimana breaks the news to us. He says there was a police operation the previous night and some men were captured and will be deported. John, the Ugandan, was among those captured.

He adds that Mohammed’s brother died on Wednesday night, just after our first visit with the soup kitchen outreach. Mohammed cannot take part in the group session. We offer him tea and he goes away. We sit in silence. We finally learn his brother’s name: Abdi Rashid.

Nasfim Kapley, a migrant from Ethiopia breaks the silence. He blames the metro police for indiscriminate abuse.

“They come here. It’s very cold at nights and the only blanket you have, they come and take it to be burned or put in their car,” he says.

He adds that sometimes when the police bloodily assault the migrants, they do not take them to the police station.

 Read more: Mail&Guardian Online

Rwandair successfully sabotaging its own grand plan to become the aviation leader in the region

I had heard so much from friends and family about Rwandair’s good deals. The Rwandan national carrier is fast becoming a favorite of many travelers on a budget. When my big sister, Gertrude, visited me in Johannesburg last November, she came aboard Rwandair and loved it. She had been upgraded to business class on the Kigali-Johannesburg leg of the trip. Jealous, right? I surely was.

So when I got my South Africa visa renewed on 10 Jan 2013, four days to my proposed date of travel, Rwandair was my preferred carrier of choice. I skipped from the South Africa High Commission on Nakasero Road down to the splash Rwenzori Courts, where the Rwandair offices are located, as catalogued in the Eye Magazine. And when I got there, the ticket cost me $565. It was a fabulous deal, I paid on spot and prepared for my night flight.

I have since learnt to travel light, and in this case, light means carrying one slightly over weight suitcase. Yes, I am known to travel with no less than 3 huge suitcases. So doing one is a mighty downgrade. I gave myself points for fitting my life over the next 15 months in Johannesburg into one bright orange Gino De Vinci suitcase.  Life was good.

After hours of waiting, transit and eventual travel, we landed at the OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg at the scheduled time- 5:30am on Tuesday morning. Tired from the flight and reeling from lack of sleep, we filed out of the plane and headed for the immigration desks. Once we completed with immigration, we moved to carousel 2 where the Rwandair baggage would come through. The carousel slowly spat out the baggage. It made a low humming sound as it made the rounds laden with bags. We crowded around it waiting for our luggage. No one seemed to be picking up their luggage, yet the carousel kept spilling out more and more bags.

Continue reading