In the underworld or under Mafia tradition, the ultimate boss can be removed only by death or abdication.
A jail term, however long cannot dispossess him of his authority and that seems to perfectly apply to Muhammad Ssebuwufu, the convicted car dealer, sentenced on Monday to 40 years in jail for murder.
Interviewed yesterday at the car dealership, Bashir Ssesanga, the second in command and sales manager at Ssebuwufu’s Pine Car Bond on Lumumba Avenue, said his boss had it all figured out before he was sent to jail with seven others for the murder and kidnap of Betty Donah Katusabe, a business woman who was fatally battered by the convicts on October 21 2015 over a Shs 9 million car debt.
The High court judge Flavia Anglin Ssenoga sentenced the seven, except for Stephen Lwanga,( who was handed a seven year jail term for being an accessory), to 40, 30 and 20 concurrent years in jail.
The convicts were further ordered to pay the family of the victim Shs 100m. Others sentenced are Paul Tasingika, Godfrey Kayiza, Yoweri Kitayimbwa alias Odutu Golola, Philip Mirambe and Damaseni Ssentongo.
Ssesanga said Ssebuwufu organised his business in such a way that when he is in jail he remains in full control of every transaction that takes place at the bond.
“Ssebuwufu has a number of businesses including real estate managed by different people but none of the managers can take decisions without first going to him even when in jail,” he said.
He said the re-organisation started when the prominent car dealer was first remanded in prison in 2015 for the murder of Katusabe. He said before Ssebuwufu was released on bail, his managers had to seek his nod of approval before clearing receipts for the purchased vehicles or buying more vehicles for sale.
Ssesanga said this set a precedent that even after his final conviction and sentencing on Monday, he remains in full control of any transaction within his businesses. This includes; issuing car logbooks to clients, receiving payments from buyers or even buying new stock.
“We still go and ask him before we effect any transaction regarding any sales and payments and under his guidance the business is still moving on as usual. However, upon his instruction we shall form a committee and everyone will be assigned responsibilities to run the businesses until he is set free,” he said.
He described his boss as a hardworking man who inspires even the laziest to deliver results. He said he has worked with Ssebuwufu for eight years and has mentored him to be his right hand man.
Another employee described Ssebuwufu as a kind man who pays medical and tuition bills for people in need; friends, relatives and even strangers.
He said he has built mosques and donated to schools.
“We are hopeful that one day justice will prevail and he will come out sooner rather than later to continue with the management of his businesses because we believe he was unfairly convicted,” he said.
Interviewed on whether Ssebuwufu can effectively run a business from prison, Frank Baine, the Uganda Prisons Service spokesman said it is possible for a convict to run and manage his businesses in jail.
He said like every convict, Ssebuwufu will be allowed time to interact with visitors and use such moments to issue instructions on how his businesses should be managed.
“Other people have done it before and Ssebuwufu can do the same we allocate them visiting time and it is up to them to utilise it the way they want whether for business deals or meeting family and friends,” Baine said.
However, to some fellow businessmen at the bond, Ssebuwufu was a gangster who hurt many people and deserves the sentence he got. One car dealer said Ssebuwufu is as dangerous in jail as he was when free. He said Ssebuwufu is a dangerous man who got what he deserved.
He said Ssebuwufu with the support of some police officers hurt many people and got away with it.
“The man used to torture most of us and whenever we reported him nothing could be done because some of the higher ranking officers at the Central Police Station were on his payroll,” he said.
The two described the 40 year sentence as justice well served.
“Police should be blamed for Katusabe’s death and all the crimes committed by Ssebuwufu because they always protected him, which made him think he was untouchable,” one dealer said. He pointed an accusing finger at Aaron Baguma, then commander of CPS, Kampala, who was first treated as a suspect in Katusabe’s murder but the charges were later dropped by the directorate of public prosecutions.
Interviewed for this story Kampala Metropolitan Police Spokesman Patrick Onyango said the entire police force cannot be blamed for the actions of an individual officer because police did all they could to have him apprehended.
“As police we preferred charges against one of our own but the Director for Public Prosecutions dropped the charges. It is the DPP to explain why they dropped the charges against Aaron Baguma that police had preferred against him,” Onyango said.