Bribery Claims Threaten Efforts to Save KBC Gym

Allegations of money exchanging hands between Kampala Boxing Club (KBC) gymnasium officials and a city tycoon could thwart efforts to save the country’s oldest boxing facility from extinction.

Housed on the eastern wing of Nakivubo War Memorial stadium, KBC gym is Uganda’s most famous boxing facility and has produced the cregraveme de la cregraveme of Ugandan boxing, including former world champions Ayub Kalule, John ‘The Beast” Mugabi and Cornelius Boza-Edwards.

Commonwealth Games champions including Godfrey Nyakana and Justin Juuko have come through the gym set up in the early 1950s by legendary coach Thomas Kawere. However, as a result of several ongoing redevelopments at Nakivubo, KBC faces an uncertain future after local investor Bosco Muwonge secured a sub-lease to redevelop the eastern wing of the stadium.

Muwonge, according to KBC officials, has already served them with verbal eviction orders as he prepares to remodel the horizontal strip into modern lock-up shops. Three months ago, Nakivubo stadium board members Rogers Mulindwa and Ivan Lubega (who is the stadium manager) met KBC officials and took note of their concerns but they haven’t got any official reply since then.

In July this year, KBC Chairman Ahmed Mbidde led boxers and well-wishers in a peaceful demonstration as redevelopment activities started. It’s against this background that Nyakana, who is Kampala Central division mayor, started mobilizing last-gasp efforts to the gym last weekend.

However, Nyakana was jolted by claims that some KBC officials took money from Muwonge to soften their stance.

“Once you accept money, it means you have been bought out and you lose the bargaining chip,” Nyakana lamented.

But Mbidde dismissed bribery allegations as mere ‘rumours intended to divide KBC executives and kill the resolve in pursuing the matter.’

“They have labelled us [boxers] goons but we’ll keep pushing until we meet the decision makers because we feel our input is vital in the changes they want to implement,” Mbidde said on Saturday.

When contacted on Saturday, Nakivubo stadium Management chairperson Hajjat Minsa Kabanda appealed for calm.

“We are still negotiating and we’ll get back to them once the deal is done,” Kabanda said.

Noting that the Nakivubo War Memorial Stadium Act allows management to sanction BOT (build-operate-transfer) and PPP (public private partnership) arrangements, Nyakana says they can initiate talks to hammer out a formal deal that would guarantee KBC’s continued existence at the facility.

The stadium management has embraced such deals with private investors to raise extra income since sports events no longer generate as much revenues. Currently, Nakivubo has debts accruing from tax remittances and utility (water and electricity) bills, amounting to more than Shs 300 million.

Already, another city tycoon Ham has constructed a storeyed structure bearing shops and restaurants on the famous Kirussia open stands.

Source : The Observer

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