Over the past few weeks, social media has been awash with memes featuring a man clad in a blue shirt and faded blue jeans with a microphone, reading out announcements at a funeral.
The old man, now identified as Godfrey Jjemba Matte, 68, is a resident of Mbulakati village, Kitimbwa town council in Kayunga district. In Uganda, he is possibly only rivalled by Nigerian actor Osita Iheme and Gabrielle Union’s daughter Kaavia in memes.
Quick Talk brings you transcripts from some of the interviews he has had on YouTube and television.
Who are you?
My name is Godfrey Jjemba Matte Jr. I add on Junior, because my father is Matte Snr. I am happy to see you, but I am wondering why you have come to visit me.
We have come to visit you because you are trending these days…
I am just an ordinary local man; a peasant here in Mbulakati village, where I was born and where I am living. My father also lives here. He is still alive although frail. My mother, however, passed away.
Do you have a wife?
I have a wife, although she is in hospital taking care of a patient. So, Christmas found her away and I am here all alone. I am not single and I am not searching. I am contended.
Do you have children?
I have eleven children but they don’t live here anymore. You know when they grow up, they go away to find jobs, get married and live their own lives. So, now I don’t need them. I want to enjoy my own life.
How did you spend Christmas?
I was here at my home because I have property like animals that I have to protect them; so, that does not allow me to move away. Theft is very rampant in this village; so, when one is not around, they break in easily and take whatever they want.
Are you educated?
Yes, I am educated. I went to school and stopped in senior four in 1976. That was because at that time, my father and I were ignorant about how far one could go with education.
When I reached senior four, I thought that was the end of studying and also my father did not know that someone could continue beyond that level, yet we had the money.
So, you come from a rich family?
We had money, though as years went by, it reduced. My father was a farmer. He had a very big coffee plantation where he used to get money from and it’s also where my school fees came from.
What did you do after senior four?
After senior four, I started working at a coffee store up to 1979. In 1980, I went and became a revenue collector in one of the communal markets, but in 1982, I returned to selling coffee.
In 1986, the president said that he wanted markets to be tendered. The one who got the tender of managing our market wanted someone with experience to do the revenue collection and I was recalled and given the job.
What job do you do now?
I am a farmer; commercially, I grow coffee. But I still collect revenue from vendors in communal markets like Kitimbwa-Kayonza and Kyerima markets.
You are trending on the internet…!
I have noticed that. Well, I read announcements during funerals such as the eulogy of the deceased and appreciation messages from relatives. The picture which is trending was taken while I was reading announcements at the funeral of Ssalango Fredrick Kateregga in Kitimbwa, which was attended by Robert Kyagulanyi (Bobi Wine).
The man who died was a father to one of Kyagulanyi’s friends. There were very many people and lots of pictures were taken, which included mine without even my knowledge.
The picture started moving around and wherever I would go, people would get out their smartphones and tell me how I was all over the internet.
How do you feel about that?
I am still surprised by it, but also in fear that in the future it might be bad for me – being recognised everywhere I go by people I even don’t know scares me. People now call me a celeb, but I don’t even know what that means.
How long have you been doing this?
Just two years. But I started seriously going around reading these announcements at funerals this year . My father used to do this during funerals around the village. So one day I thought, can’t I also do this?
I started reading, people believed in me and I began serving them. I don’t even call it a job, because when I go to funerals, I go there as a mourner and give in my condolences; but because of the experience they know I have in reading announcements, they tell me to help out.
Someone may think that this is my job and that they pay me to do it, but that is not the case. I didn’t study to do this; this is just a talent.
Even though after reading, someone can see it fit for them to dig into their pocket and give me some money as a token of appreciation. I let the family of the bereaved give any amount they can manage. This is just a service, but not a job.
Have you thought about opening up your own account on social media where we can follow you?
I don’t have that arrangement right now, but if there is someone who thinks that I can be more influential than I am right now, I can do it.
If someone offered you a job of reading announcements on radio, would you do it?
That would be a piece of cake, because the announcements I read now are almost the same as those read on radio…
What do you do in your free time?
I love going through my garden while tending it and look after my animals. I also listen to news on my radio.
What challenges have you faced in this?
The challenge I have right now is that people demand of me a lot, which means that I have to be moving from one funeral to another.
I find a challenge when my bicycle breaks down and I have nothing to do but walk. I wish I can be helped and get quicker means like a motorcycle, which can enable me get faster to funeral locations.
I am also being challenged by not having a mobile phone. We had two phones but one was stolen and I have had to share the remaining one with my wife who is currently away with it in hospital; so, it is difficult to reach me. I need to have my own phone.
I also want to finish my house so that I can live decently.
Do you feel like you have gained from your service?
Yes, I am proud of what I do. I have become known… I have decided to serve the people because this is like a talent to me.
ONLINE FANS COME TO THE RESCUE
Because of unknowingly entertaining people all over the internet and after hearing the struggles he goes through to render services to people, social media users led by Patrick Kanyomozi who is also the president of Ugandans on Twitter (UOT) have embarked on a fundraising campaign to help Jjemba reach some of his goals.
“Mzee Godfrey Jjemba has lit up Twirra more than anyone. As UOT, we need to give him a token of appreciation. A motorbike, a mobile public address system, anything we can (but not energy drinks). Anyone in?” Kanyomozi tweeted.
The response so far is overwhelming. In just a few hours, mobile phone dealers, Sage Buyers came forward and promised to give Jjemba a brand new iPhone, while a one Ronald Matovu promised to give him a solar system.
“I know that new mobile phone needs charging and talk time. I will donate a free solar system and pay for him talk time for a full year,” Matovu tweeted.
Last Thursday, Bagz Apple Store gifted Jjemba with a brand new Samsung A71 and a radio, while the member of parliament for Bbaale constituency, Charles Ssebandeke gave him 10 bags of cement to help him complete his house.
Fundraising money to help Jjemba meet his needs is still on-going with interested persons sending money to 0705050424 and 0785779324 both in the name of Solomon Kaweesa.