State Minister for Investment and Privatisation EVELYN ANITE is rumoured to be under investigation for allegedly soliciting $8 million (Shs 28.8bn) bribe from a group of Arab investors.
In an April 26 interview at her office in the ministry of Finance, the minister told Sadab Kitatta Kaaya that people are simply envious of her. Excerpts:-
It is almost two years since you were appointed state minister, what is there for you to show?
There is a lot of work that I have done since I was appointed. I am holding two dockets that were previously held by two men. This is because of the confidence and trust the appointing authority has got in me; he believes I can deliver on this job.
I have been able to attract investors to the country – I am very happy that from the time I got appointed, the things that were not being manufactured in this country like tiles, ceramics, television sets, flat irons [and] musical appliances are now being manufactured in the country.
One big thing that I take credit for; which I feel happy about is the Mbale industrial park. I was able to get investors that came into the country, did due diligence, and with the support of His Excellency, the President, we were able to start Mbale Industrial Park where we are going to [establish] over 50 factories.
Still in my time, we are having the second biggest cement factory which we are trying to open. I don’t want to blow my own trumpet like the English say, but if I don’t blow it, who will blow it for me? One thing that I have done is the revamping of Uganda Telecom Ltd (UTL). I came at a time when UTL was going to be liquidated; everyone had given up on UTL [until] I got a directive from the president that UTL should not be liquidated.
I found Kilembe mines in the hands of Tibet-Hima which had literally run down the company. It was very hard to get these people out.
With the support of the legal team, I was able to ensure that those who had run down Kilembe mines are pushed out. That was in implementation of my appointing authority’s directive. We are at the verge of getting new investors to manage the mines better.
We are in advanced stages of getting Namanve Industrial Park done. I am on the verge of having this park fully completed.
The other achievement is the tabling of the Investment Code Bill. My predecessors had failed…I don’t want to discredit my predecessors [because] they tried, but the bill was not getting out of the way.
Many see your ministerial appointment as a reward for what you did in Kyankwanzi leading to the NRM caucus’ passage of the ‘sole candidate’ resolution in 2014…
You see the person of Anite? When you see her on the surface, you judge her, you give her a wrong name but when you interact with her, you’ll find that she is a different person. So many people don’t know who Anite is until they come to my office.
Many get surprised and say, “We did not expect you to be that smart, we didn’t think that you do the things you are doing.”
The act I did in 2014 of asking the president to continue…to offer himself as our party chairman and flagbearer [for the 2016 presidential elections], the act of going on my knees was interpreted differently. “Oh, she is this naïve girl, she doesn’t know anything…”. If you call my phone, you’ll hear a song “I know who I am” as my call tune because I know who I am. I know what I want in life. I want to see my country better.
Are you proud of that action?
I am very proud, and, if I [have] another opportunity, I shall do it again.
There are reports connecting you to a scandal of soliciting bribes from investors.
[Laughs]… you know, my job is an envious job, there are many people who want to have it. So, you would expect them to say anything. For the first time, during the Women’s day, His Excellency the President asked me to stand up for recognition for my little humble contribution of bringing investors to manufacture mobile phones in this country. He gives a directive and puts Anite’s name; you’ll expect them to say that, “Anite is fleecing investors.”
My job is to interact with investors everyday but when someone says that you took $8m from investors…really? $8m…just think about it. Where would someone put such money? I am one person who can go to the last mile without getting anything, without any financial gain or incentive. I have been very consistent and when I start on something, I don’t let go.
I expect them to say anything about me but like I said, I know who I am, I am free for any investigation, because, I know that I cannot take a bribe; I can’t, I have never done it and I am not about to do it.
When I first heard about this particular issue, I went straight to my president and I had to tell him. I told him that word making rounds is that because of UTL, I am going to get $8m just because I am fighting to save the company from liquidation. This issue is going to go before cabinet, we will discuss it, and we will choose; should the company be liquidated or not.
Ugandans who are working in that place are not my relatives, they are citizens of this country. I get paid by parliament for what I have worked for.
I expect to hear those accusations because I am stepping on people’s feet. When I tell you that I am going ahead, negotiating big projects, and standing in the way of those who would want a bribe, you expect them to smile and clap their hands for me? Of course not.
But like the saying goes, “He who alleges must prove and prove beyond reasonable doubt”.
On whose toes have you stepped? Who do you suspect to be behind the allegations?
[They] are so many. You have seen on social media people attacking me. On social media, those who don’t like President Museveni, they are bound to attack me.
They have tried to attack my personality, they tried to throw mud at me but no amount of mud thrown at me has been able to make me dirty. Nothing! They’ve called me names, drawn cartoons of me, they’ve stripped me naked.
I am unboggable. I can’t get bogged by those things; I put my head up because I know who I am, I know what I have done, I know what I am doing, and I know what I want in life. At the end of it all, I say, they don’t know what they are doing.
Why are you fuelling fights between UTL and NITA-U?
There is no fight; their fight is only summarized and answered by one letter written by the fountain of honour. So, they don’t even have to fight. They [NITA-U] are fighting a losing battle.
The fountain of honour has given a directive that every government ministry, department and agency should get internet access from UTL. NITA-U is a regulator; they should continue with the job of regulation. I don’t see why they are fighting. I even know, that is why they are cooking these stories [that I solicited for an $8m bribe from investors]. I know it.
They said the same thing about the administrator [Bemanya Twebaze], and they will continue cooking these stories just to defend their [interests]. But this is about the government of Uganda wanting to create jobs for our people, wanting a Ugandan company to be stable.
But both UTL and NITA-U are government entities; can’t their issues be harmonised…
It is being harmonised and the president has given a directive. In fact, NITA-U is acting in insubordination to the president. I just don’t want to be harsh on them, but if you got me in one of those moods where I call a spade a spade, I would have called them names.
The president has given a clear sense of direction; who are you to go against his directive? But, that is sorted, for me; I see it as a done deal. The only thing they are left with are the kicks of a dying horse now and they have resorted to saying, “Anite has eaten, the reason she is passionate is because she has eaten.” What is there to be eaten in that UTL?
I can get my personal money and give to UTL because I really want that company to survive.
You are accused of having irregularly given away land belonging to Bugisu Cooperative Union to Chinese investors who are behind Mbale industrial park.
That is absolute rubbish. The 619 acres of land given to those investors are not meant for them to carry to China but to utilise in Uganda and leave it in that place called Mbale. Create jobs not for Chinese but for Ugandans, in Uganda, and to attract foreign direct investment.
We have a stringent lease agreement signed for five-year development. Within five years, even when the lease offer reads 49 years, if they have not developed those factories, the lease will be cancelled.
Two, there is no such a thing like the land was taken away from BCU, that land was bought by the government of Uganda when BCU had problems. All the documents are signed; they [BCU] signed off this land and gave it to government of Uganda. The government paid using taxpayers’ money; so, they have been settled. We went ahead and compensated all the squatters on the land.
I always say that if they have anything against the government, let them go to court. They should stop spreading lies. No one can eat land, and no one can carry land. Land is a fixed asset; it can’t move, neither can the size multiply.
It will be there, no one is going to take it away. If I were those claiming that their land was taken, I would wake up to the occasion that we need to create jobs for our children and stop being silly. Who said that we are doing these things for ourselves? We are doing development; we want to industrialise our country; we have all the natural resources.