Tenants at the National Theatre have been given until the end of this month to vacate the premises. Uganda National Cultural Center (UNCC) ordered the tenants to pack their wares and move out during a meeting held on Wednesday last week.
The National Theater has been in a sorry state for over six decades despite its prime location next to the parliament building. The building is among 51 buildings and sites in Kampala, which were constructed before 1969.
This iconic 60-year-old piano-shaped building that houses the National Theatre in Kampala is set for demolition to pave way for a 36-storey modern tower.
According to the proposed plan, the facility is set to be transformed into a mega complex with a multi-million shopping mall, arcades, modern restaurants, bars, cinemas, state of the art auditoriums and a six underground car parking lots
This mega project will cost $100 million (about Shs 360 billion). UNCC is expected to sign a contract with the developers by next week. Currently, UNCC generates Shs 2 billion from the National Theater in rent and projects to generates Shs 50 billion annually once the project is complete.
Ivan Amanya, a lawyer with Mayende & Associated Advocates has been occupying suite no. 15-17 on the second floor of the National Theatre building. According to Amanya, although he knew this was coming, given the redevelopment plans, he thinks tenants would be given more time, adding that month eviction notice is unfair.
Amanya says they are still consulting and will announce their next course of action when they receive the formal eviction notices. Veteran artist, Jack Sserunkuma, says they are concerned by the way government has taken their industry for granted.
He claims that they were never consulted about the proposed redevelopment of the theatre. Sserunkuma told URN on Monday that the National Theater has been his sole source of income since 1974 where he has been performing from. He faults the UNCC for giving them short notice, saying they had already planned shows at the theater.
Some of the shows advertised on the National Theater notice boards include among others Batalo Dance Fest, which is scheduled between August 21st and 27th, 2017.
Julius Lugaya and Charles Batambuze, the secretary of the International Theater Institute Uganda Centre (ITI), share the same sentiments with Sserunkuma. The two say they are still waiting for a response from the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga on their petition on the matter.
Peter Francis Ojede, the director UNCC declined to speak to URN and instead referred our reporter to the public relations officer. Roberts Musiitwa, the spokesperson UNCC confirmed the development, saying they will issue an official communication this week.
"Why do you want to pick things that are not yet ready, we will inform you at the right time. We are finalizing on a few things and we shall call you possibly this week to communicate the whole procedure," Musiitwa said.