Kampala, Uganda | AGNES E NANTABA | 27-year old Francis Zaake Butebi combines controversy and success in the most unusual ways. He is one of the youngest MPs, shares a name with his home village, became an MP on the same day he graduated, and successfully juggled school and running a business.
Some would say it was a major blotch on his character when he got involved in the September 26, 2017 fracas in parliament between security personnel and opposition MPs challenging the so-called presidential age-limit Bill.
As an MP from the majority ruling party attempted to table the con- troversial constitutional amendment Bill removing the 75-year age-limit to make President Yoweri Museveni eligible to contest the next election, Zaake and several opposition MPs made headlines world- wide as they shouted and threw punches and other objects in the House.
The following day, Zaake was among the 25 legislators to be suspended from the house for indiscipline and breach of rules of procedure. Zaake says he does not regret his involvement. “I want to be remembered as a fighter for justice and the good of others,” he says, “In fact I sometimes wish I had died during the age limit debate fights such that the perpetrators of justice can know that we are serious about our demands.”
Zaake says passing the age-limit Bill was a betrayal and he cannot be moved by anything that may mean betraying his constituents. He says the incident marked a turning point, where he put up a struggle for justice. He says he has always believed that politics should be an avenue for ensuring justice prevails. It is what propelled him to seek leadership at St Lawrence Schools and Colleges (formerly Kabaka’s Lake Campus).
Even back then he always told his friends that he would one day be an MP. When the school was moved, Zaake returned to his home area in Mityana and continued school at Modern Secondary School where he completed Ordinary level. Here, he took up leadership positions in Nkobazambogo (an association of Baganda students).
He went to Maryland High School and his dream of leading students at an institution of higher learning became reality when he joined Ndejje University. He starting working early towards becoming president of the students Guild and won the position during his second year.
At the same time, Zaake was also running business and with some finances to his account, he declared his bid for the Mitya- na Municipality MP seat. Despite the various stints in student leadership, Zaake’s entrance into parlia- ment was unusual. As the first born of Omukungu Sem- busi Emmanuel Butebi and Naluyima Teddy of Butebi village in Mityana district, Zaake became politically awake at a very early age. But when he declared his bid to become MP for Mityana Municipality con- stituency, he appeared to be setting himself up to fail.
He was young, the politics is too commercialized, and the constituencies had many prominent politicians in the running. Fortunately, for him, he had the support of a famous and well-liked father who did a lot to convince people to believe in his young son.
He soon had the support of the women and traders. At the time, Zaake was also daintily balancing school and business. Adding politics to the milieu meant that Zaake had to be at school and work during week days and visit the community to campaign during the weekends only.
On the question of money, Zaake is coy, saying “my parents and extended family too supported me financially prior to the campaigns and during the entire electoral process”. In real- ity, Zaake is known to have made money at an early age and possibly spent a bit of it. In many ways, therefore, his triumph in the February 2016 elections was further proof of Zaake’s ability to win against stiff odds.
The day he was sworn in as an MP was the same day he graduated with a degree in Procurement and Supply Chain Management. “I graduated in the morning and was sworn-in in the afternoon,” he says.