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Uganda President Musesveni at Manubhai’s Eulogy

by on May 19, 2012

Uganda Asian friends and supporters everywhere will be pleased to see this speech of The President of Uganda at the ashes ceremony of Manubhai Madhvani. It’s an important message of support for the Asian community here, looking at attracting more members from the diaspora. 

He read all of the speech and added twice as much extempore, mostly about Asian enterprise. 

Ladies and Gentlemen

We come together to say our final farewells to a great son of Uganda, Shri Manubhai Madhvani. Ever since I came to power I had many occasions to meet with Shri Manubhai at social functions and at meetings of the State where his counsel was sought. He always benefited me with his advice, which I almost always followed. He was a gentleman in the old style, a man of few words, humble and wise. They don’t make them like that anymore.

Manubhai was the third generation in that glorious family. His great uncle Vithaldas first came to Uganda in 1893. It is recorded in Manubhai’s autobiography that Vithaldas initially worked with the great Indian pioneer Allidina Visram. Manubhai’s father, Muljibhai, joined him in 1908 at the age of 14 years. By 1911 he was minding a duka in Kaliro. He was just 17 years old. In 1930 the Madhvani family ventured into sugar-cane growing. The then-Governor of Uganda, Sir John Hall, said sugar wouldn’t sell in Uganda!

I have to acknowledge my wise friend Mahendra Mehta’s father, the great Nanjibhai Kalidas Mehta at Lugazi, beat the Madhvani family by quite a few years! After that it was always Mehta and Madhvani as they marched in parallel steps in industrializing Uganda. Nile Breweries was established in 1957.

The next year Muljibhai passed away. The mantle fell on Jayant as the eldest son. Manubhai was always at his side. The two brothers grew the empire almost 10-fold—from just 7 companies to 70. Twenty thousand workers worked in the Madhvani Group in 1972. The Group paid 10 percent of government revenue. The estate was like a mini welfare state, with schools, dispensaries, and canteens.

Jayant passed away in 1971, not even 50. He had been a member of over a dozen State committees. It took its toll. His name is carried forward by his widow Meenaben and children Nitin and Nimisha, our Ambassador to India and the Far East. What a splendid job she is doing for our commercial diplomacy!

In 1972 the expulsion happened. Before that Manubhai was incarcerated at Makindye to frighten off the Asian community. Mahendra Mehta was expelled on the last day of the deadline.

Catastrophe fell on the Uganda economy. We have a graph available of sugar production at Kakira to tell that story. In 1972 the factory produced 80 thousand tons of sugar; by 1986 it had collapsed to almost zero. I remember coming to the estate to visit with Manubhai. In place of the sugar-cane was tall elephant grass! Manubhai was working hard to rehabilitate the estate. Today the sugar production is at two-and-a-half times the 1986 level! The company feeds nearly 25 megawatts of electricity into the national power grid from burning the bagasse.

In telling the story of Manubhai and the Madhvani family we are telling the story of Asian enterprise in Uganda, where many families rose from rags to superb riches, but where over 80 percent remained mere duka-owners. All were expelled together, losing all their life’s savings. Just 2,000 or so have returned and contributed beyond their numbers to the economy.

Just last week I have endorsed a major book on Uganda Asians that records the expulsion, the pioneering days and the post-1972 experience. The author Dr Vali Jamal is in the audience. At over 1,200 pages it is a labour of love he has performed for the Asian community and Uganda. I look at it as an asset for our Golden Jubilee celebrations in bringing back Asian entrepreneurs abroad. I invite the full participation of the Asian community in the Golden Jubilee celebrations. I myself will celebrate with you at the great reunion planned for October at Dr Sudhir’s Speke Resort. His enterprise is something for all of us to be proud of! I look forward to meeting the past pioneers and the young entrepreneurs at the reunion.

Our economy has grown almost 7-fold since 1986. It is now a much diversified economy in terms of sectors as well as participants. The African entrepreneur class did rise up to fill the vacuum left by Asians when peace and prosperity returned. Their achievements, too, are recorded in this book—James Mulwana, Gordon Wavamunno, Ham Mulira, William Kalema, our own John Nagenda, Maggie Kigozi, and Patrick Bitature. Prince Kassim carries on in the tradition of his illustrious father Prince Badru.

Along with the New Generation Asians—Tilda, Britania, Alams, Mukwanos, the Roofings—these Young Lions have taken our economy to the cutting edge of technology. Today Uganda is well positioned to be the hub for the booming countries surrounding us.

The story of the Madhvani family exemplifies the virtue of saving. Parents save for their children, educate them and pass on their estates to the young generations. The baton has gone to Mayur and Kamlesh. They have done wonders in reviving the tourism industry in Uganda, one of our important foreign exchange earners. Here in this assembly are present the great- and the great-great grandchildren of Muljibhai Madhvani. May the dynasty last forever.

It is a somber moment as Manubhai’s ashes are immersed into the waters of Lake Victoria. So it was before him for his father Muljibhai and brother Jayant. From here the ashes will flow into the Nile, one of the sacred rivers in the Hindu religion. Indeed we record with pride that some ashes of Mahatma Gandhi were strewn into the Nile at the-then Rippon Falls. From there the Nile will soon fall through the Bujagali Dam. Power will return to Uganda—and there will be light!

I pray for the eternal rest of the departed soul and for strength to Shardaben and the family to withstand this loss.

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