SkyscraperCity banner

1 - 9 of 9 Posts

1,799 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
A tale of Jinja city is not sweet to those who knew it about 50 years ago

The story of Jinja town is a heartbreaking one narrating a fall from glory as the country’s industrial hub is a tale many elders recollect with emotion. In fact its loose description for ‘a rock’ is but a gone tale only quantified by its partially rocky soil texture

As many elders and former industrial workers share, the notion that it is actually on the blind alley is visibly demonstrated by a broken road network in the once vibrant industrial area of the town as well as concrete shells for walls that used to house numerous factories and workers who came from different parts of the country to earn a living in the country’s industrial capital.

“Jinja was a wonderful place. All the roads were very good, most roads were tarmaced. All buildings were in a good state, shops were very busy. The entire business structure was organised and there were so many Asians by then but over the years the town has been run down,” Mr David Mubiike, a stakeholder in Jinja, shares.

All the buzz of activity elderly Alfred Wandera was inured to as a middle-aged worker in Jinja, has been replaced by inactivity and what’s left is the legacy of the now defunct factories. And it is with little hope that the young generation can ever qualify the rosy recollection elderly chaps share of a vibrant Jinja town given seemingly solitary new face.

The Queen would certainly be ashamed if she were to revisit the once magnificent Ripon Falls Hotel where she first stayed on her first visit to the Pearl of Africa and Jinja town, during the inauguration of the Owen Falls Dam.

It is now an abandoned and shabby structure which could have last seen a coat of paint during her Majesty Queen of England Elizabeth II’s last visit on April 28, 1954.

Embarrassing site
Ripon Falls Hotel stands out in this vicinity where new individual structures have been erected which makes a distinctive look from the old hotel that’s turned into an embarrassment.

Further down the road is the pier and docking area that used to be another point that buzzed with activity in days when water transport was still a very active means. Locals at this shoreline have turned the dock as a trade route for charcoal, a mistake Mr Mubiike, blames on poor government policy.

Part of the mistakes current leaders are making, he says, is borrowing a lot of money to work on roads whose life span is no more than five years where they will deplete very fast.

“It is because of the failure to address proper policies that can protect our roads. The whites planned that our cargo and the heavy trade from the Mombasa port to the hinterlands of Rwanda, Burundi, Zaire, Sudan and Uganda would come by water transport and railway transport. Now, what has happened over years is that we have neglected water and railway transport,” Mr Mubiike explains.
“There is need for government to seriously consider reviving the water transport,” he adds.

Mwalimu Mazinga is one of the longest surviving locals at this Ripon landing site where he first docked and settled in 1976. He explains that there was a fine road that used to transport goods to the flourishing business in Jinja town.

But times have changed and so have careers for a few locals like Mr Wilberforce Menya, a former Nytil industrial worker. He is also trying to earn off charcoal trade but that is after the privatisation of Nytil in 1997 when working conditions changed and many of them found their way out.
FEW JOBS: Few industries like Nytil still exist in Jinja. PHOTO BY EDGAR R. BATTER

For Mr Menya, this also marked an end to a 15-year tenure at the biggest industry in Jinja. “It was a good place to work. We would be given free clothing every fortnight, be entitled to lunch and also got a half-month payment,” Mr Menya, who joined Nytil in 1975, recollects.

“I worked there until 1997 when things began changing for worse. We were told we had to cater for our lunch, we were not entitled to sick leave and even when you lost someone, you wouldn’t be helped in any way,” elderly Menya explains leaning on his left souvenir, an old bicycle.

But for many factory workers, leaving their work stations did not offer much relief. In fact many were left at crossroads.
“Sometimes factories would be abruptly closed and when business changed hands, workers were not sure who was to pay them,” Mr Mubiike adds.

What’s left of the former Jinja pier- which used to boost business between Mwanza, Kisumu/Kenya, Tanzania and Jinja- are a few boats that belong to a private Asian factory.

“All these roads had tarmac. Some of them last saw tarmac when the Asians left,” Mr Mubiike, a former finance minister in Busoga Kingdom adds as we ascend the road that runs off-shore at the pier.
The economic giants in Jinja were the Madhvani and Mr Mubiike further tells that the social responsibility that was extended to the development of Jinja by the founders of the Madhvani group of companies is totally different from the current group of the Mayurs, of the fourth generation.

Changing times
“The Madhvani in the first and second generation deliberately ploughed back to the communities. For example they funded the construction of Jinja town hall, Jinja SS, Jinja Girls School and did a lot to put up Wairaka College among other ventures,” he recollects.Chief Fred Menya Kakaire of Bugweri shares memories of a bustling Jinja from as early as 1940 through to the 1980 when its downside began manifesting. “Jinja had grown into an industrial town and had very many workers who worked in big factories like Nytil which was established in the 1950s,” Dr Kakaire who was a civil servant working as a physiotherapist, recollects.

“It is a declining difference than a progressive difference. Back then, the dollar was down but people used to enjoy their money. People travelled all over Uganda to come and work in Jinja,” he adds.

The increasing loss in money value is one the things chief Menya, one of the 11 that have been meeting the President over the controversy of who the rightful Kyabazinga of Busoga, misses about Jinja back in the 1960s and 70s.

But he can only wonder at the change in times. And a further drive through is more revealing. Factories like Mulco Textile factory at Kimaka which was on its knees and due to financial limitations, has since been taken over by a private security firm.

The Jinja airstrip is not with much activity, and part of it has overgrown grass that’s partly managed by grazing cattle, while the other chunk is utilised by the army.

The People Transport Company which was an extension arm of the Uganda Transport in Kampala is now partly a depot of soda and general mechanical work.

“We had a fleet of over 80 buses under this company and was serving the whole country especially eastern, central and western Uganda. In the bus transport, this was the second largest in Uganda, the first being Uganda Transport Company where there is now the Mukwano Shopping Arcade,” Mr Mubiike further highlights about the importance of the company.

Transport gone
People’s Transport was active in the regimes of Amin, Lule, Binaisa, through Obote 2 and part of the current regime but later both companies collapsed.

“During the Idi Amin regime and under Obote 2 there was effort to rehabilitate some of the industries and the production was there. And even at the beginning of this government there was effort to bring up these industries,” Mr Mubiike shares.

He blames the collapse on privatisation. “I remember through 1986 up to about 1994 there was deliberate effort to rebuild this economy but when the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank package came in and we started shifting to privatisation, it appears we lost direction,” he further argues.

Busoga Growers’ Cooperative Union partly tells the story of the collapse of cooperative unions in Uganda. It structures are now rented by a school called Jinja Parents College Busoga.
It is one of the many that were sold leaving farmers to lose their contributions.

Elderly Wandera went to school courtesy of earning from this union.
It is a bumpy ride through the industrial area of the town and leads to the former Amco Associated paper industry which has been taken over by some Asians who are trying to renovate to. They have also renamed it Makepasi (safety) Match Ltd. Print pack and chillington (crocodile) but the roads show of less life.
“The former print pack, a government industry which was taken over without payment has been turned into a yard,” Mr Mubiike explains. A peep through a big wall offers nothing for the eye for the structures of the factory that used to make all sorts of printing materials and labels. The drive also leads to BAT which has been advertised for people who want to rent its stores.
But the town is with a few new beauties like the offices of Umeme which are within a stone’s throw from the semi-finished contested structure of Central Building.

Good images
The East African Community structures on Iganga Road are the other beauties in the town. However, adjacent to it are shabby structures which looked abandoned and ought to be condemned.

But to some, not all hope is lost for Jinja. For Former mayor, David Wakudumira who is also aspiring to take on Kagoma Constituency, there could have been a time when Jinja was down but is now taking an upward trend.
“It is coming up, what it requires is good leadership and good business people. There is a lot of potential in Jinja. I think Jinja should be developed as a service city as far as tourism, education services and other industrial commercial projects are concerned. We can do well in those areas,” he argues.

44 Posts
Even kasese / kilembe are no longer shining as they used to be in the Hey dey of copper mining. The copper belt of Zambia too! The uganda railway rusted away too due to the end of the minerals boom. Tazara railway too faded into obscurity.

44 Posts
@sseki10 and other forum members, I find the story of Jintao so fascinating though quite sad with all those jobs and opportunities gone with the decline in manufacturing. This has happened on even a larger scale in major industrial cities most notably Detroit which is now like a ghost city. I would be glad if I can be allowed to link this story on because I think it's interesting in a way. The source and author will be acknowledged. Let me know what you think guys. Thanks
1 - 9 of 9 Posts