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Minister Kabafunzaki charged, assistant pleads guilty

COURTESY PHOTO shows police detectives processing and sorting money they say was a bribe for Kabafunzaki (middle).

Uganda’s Minister of State for Labour, Employment and Industrial relations Herbert Kabafunzaki has been charged before the Anti-Corruption Court with three counts that include corruption and conspiracy to commit a felony.

The Rukiga County MP appeared before  Chief Magistrate  Agnes Alum  jointly with his political assistant Brian Mugabo and an interior designer Bruce Lubowa.

Kabafunzaki and Lubowa denied the offence, but Mugabo admitted having hidden sh5 million that he told court he knew had been accepted by the minister as a bribe – so that Kabafunzaki escapes punishment.

The incident in this case is said by the prosecution to have happened at Serena Hotel in Kampala on April 8 2017, where the trio went after reportedly receiving a call from the complainant in a sex allegation investigation, Mohammed Hami, who is an investor and the chairperson of AYA Group.

Prosecution alleges that the minister conspired with Lubowa to solicit for a  bribe of sh15 million between April 6-8 in Kampala and accepted to receive sh 5m million on the fateful date.

Its further alleged that the bribe was to clear Mohammed Hamid from allegations of sexual harassment  by his former employee.

They have now been remanded to prison till Wednesday when the court will make a ruling on whether to grant the minister bail.

Prosecution’s Maxim Erizooba objected to the minister’s release on bail saying investigations into the matter are not complete and there is a high likelihood that he will interfere with witnesses, as well as abscond trial due to the overwhelming evidence.

Prosecution also asked that Mugabo who has pleaded guilty be separately imprisoned.

Who is Kabafunzaki

Herbert Kabafunzaki, who police arrested on Saturday for allegedly taking a bribe, is a successful Ugandan businessman and politician who has served as State Minister for Labor, Employment and Industrial Relations since June 22, 2016.

Kabafunzaki, 41, is the elected Member of Parliament representing Rukiga county, in Kabale District in the 10th parliament and a member of Uganda’s ruling party, the National Resistance Movement.

He holds a bachelor’s Degree of Ethics and Development Studies from Uganda Martyrs University, Nkozi, a Masters in Business Administration from Makerere University and a Diploma in Law from Law Development Centre Kampala.

Kabafunzaki entered private business immediately after graduating from university, working as a Clearing and Forwarding agent before entering politics where in 2011 he was elected Local Councillor 5 (LC5) representing Makindye Ssaabagabo sub-county (Wakiso) before it became a municipality.

His ministerial appointment, after he won the Rukiga MP seat, was seen by political analysts  as a reward for defeating Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) strong-man and also former party treasurer Jack Sabiiti in Rukiga County in the 2016 presidential and parliamentary elections. Sabiiti was the first FDC MP in Kigezi sub-region.

Kabafunzaki during the NRM campaigns

Upon his appointment, Kabafunzaki vowed to crack down on investors that don’t respect workers’ rights. He has since then carried out a number of surprise inspection visits to various companies mostly owned by foreign investors including Tian Tang steel company in Mukono and Tembo Steel Mills among others.

He had, before the dramatic turn of events, also taken on Chairman and Managing Director of Aya Group Hamid over sex allegations.

According to Kampala Metropolitan Spokesman Emilian Kayima, Kabafunzaki was arrested with Mugabo while reportedly receiving a sh5 million  of a sh10 million bribe from Hamid.

According to TV broadcasts from Serena (click to see periscope), a Special Forces Command team were involved in the arrest.

Kayima explained that Kabafunzaki was arrested by detectives from central police station at Serena where detectives say he had gone to pick the money to shelve the alleged sexual harassment investigations into Hamid, the Aya boss.

However, Kabafunzaki while being led to the car before he was driven away after arrest said it is a concoction. “There is nothing that I have done. This is a concoction. The cameras were there, you can check,” said Kabafunzaki.

Police’s Kayima said Hamid and Mugabo who is said to be the minister’s personal assistant and a cousin had agreed to meet at Serena where he would give him the money. Kayima said Hamid informed police, who sent detectives to go track the suspects.

The Aya Brothers-owned Pearl of Africa Hotel Kampala. INDEPENDENT/JIMMY SIYA

Hamid denies sex allegations

On Thursday April 6, 2017, Kabafunzaki led team of officials from the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development to the Nakasero based Pearl of Africa Hotel Kampala (Kampala Hilton Hotel), which is under construction by Aya Investments, a subsidiary of the group, to look into sexual harassment allegations by a former female worker and to carry out an inspection of the working environment.

However, in an engagement between the minister and the hotel management, Hamid denied the allegations saying the said girl is working with a one Mugabo to tarnish his name.

Hamid said the woman in question working with Mugabo wanted to extort money from him failure for which he would be blackmailed.

“That woman was suspended for misconduct and she hatched a plan with Brian to tarnish my name. Brain called my colleague demanding for $10,000 which they would share. She said that was the only way we can solve this problem. I even informed the office of the Criminal Investigations and Intelligence Department (CIID) about the matter,” said Hamid.

Consequently Kabafunzaki asked the management of Hilton Hotel, Kampala to present its workers’ documentation following complaints that many of them do not have employment contracts on top of sexual abuse allegations by a woman who had stated this has been going on since 2015.

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