When you talk about rubbing shoulders with royalty, it sounds as if it is limited to those related to the royal family. Maybe, maybe not. While some people go to dine and wine at the Kabaka’s birthday, others clean the road for him to move on a spotless ground.
At 9.45am, a short stout elderly man saunters from the palace that is about 50 metres away to go about his work. He is wearing a pair of navy blue trousers, polished black moccasins and a grey patterned shirt with few buttons. Clutching an off-white nylon sack to the left of his chest and a short grass broom, he is not your usual road sweeper. This has been Yozefu Maria Muganda Tayiggwa’s routine for almost two decades. At 79, he has committed to cleaning the Kabakanjagala roundabout. Unlike other days when he gets to work by 6.30am, this time he has arrived a few minutes to 10am.
“On a normal day, I wake up at 4am and pray. Then, I prepare my work tools and leave home,” says the soft-spoken man, adding that he sometimes waits for the sun to rise. His job involves clearing heaps of sand and rubbish on the walkways and road edges that lead to the king’s roundabout.
The roundabout popularly known as lukoma nantawetwa is in Rubaga Division. It connects roads- from the city centre through Rubaga Road that leads to Kabusu and to Rubaga Cathedral, and the other from the Kabaka’s palace leading to Bulange, Mengo and Mengo hospital. This intersection is the main attraction along what is called the Royal Mile. Recently renovated in commemoration of the Kabaka’s 60th birthday, it has an intersection which is paved on the inside and painted with zebra stripes. It is built in the shape of a split long drum (engalabi) joined by Buganda Kingdom emblem at whose foot are two small metallic doors which serve as an inlet and outlet for the Kabaka.
How Tayiggwa got started with the job
Before he started cleaning the roundabout in 1995, Tayiggwa says he used to play the trumpet in the Uganda army band from 1964 to 1971 where he served for seven years as a corporal until he retired. “I retired from the army and got another job as a purchasing stamp security officer from 1971 to 1994 of Coffee Marketing Board.” He used to pass by the Kabakanjagala roundabout.
Because Tayiggwa is from the kyondwa clan which is said to revere Buganda Kingdom principles the most. No Buganda official approached him to do this kind of work. “ When I noticed that the public had turned Kabakanjagala roundabout into a dumping ground, I felt the need to have it clean and more presentable,” he explains.
“Because I was interested in keeping the kingdom’s property clean, building and preserving history of the place, I took it upon myself to clean voluntarily since 1995. Remember, I’m not related to the king.” On learning about the loyal Buganda subject, the Kabaka offered him housing in the palace which is a walkable distance from the roundabout. He lives by himself.
“Had it been left as a dumping site, it would have embarrassed Buganda Kingdom because even when KCCA workers are sweeping roads, they ignore the roundabout. And in ganda culture, the subjects are supposed to clean such a place,” he adds.
Every job well done deserves a reward. On how Tayiggwa survives without pay, Tayiggwa says he receives money from well-wishers while at work. This does not mean that the kingdom does not appreciate his efforts. “I receive a monthly token of Shs50,000 from Bulange, Mengo through my bank which is meant for food. However, when he falls sick, he seeks medication from hospital and pays the bills.
“In my free time, I go to the First Presbyterian Church in Kisenyi to pray and sing gospel music in church,” Tayiggwa says. Like any other job, this too has its challenges. When it rains, the rain water brings with it mud and silt plus rubbish from the vicinity which sometimes collects by the roadside near the roundabout. This requires Tayiggwa to clean using more energy when shovelling it off.
“When the sun does not rise early enough, the morning cold bites into my body and I report to work late,” he explains.
How it became a king’s roundabout
Tayiggwa recalls, in 1964 this spot came to be known as the king’s roundabout following the visit of the then king of Ethiopia Haile Selassie who was hosted by Edward Muteesa I.
“In Ethiopia, it was custom that the king was never meant to use the roundabout but rather drive through it. While on a short drive distance from Kabaka Muteesa’s palace to Namirembe Cathedral for prayers, Selassie aised Muteesa not to be driven around the Kabakanjagala roundabout but create a way through it to and from the palace like it is in Ethiopia,” he recollects.
Since then, the roundabout was designated for the Kabaka and stayed as a monument for Selassie’s visit to Buganda. And the Ethiopian norm was adopted henceforth. The place was then named lukoma nantawetwa, loosely translated “the king cannot be bent and made to go round”.
“It was only done at this roundabout because it’s the only one that Selassie used while in the Rolls Royce with Muteesa I. Whenever Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi is visiting Bulange, Mengo from his palace, he drives through here,” Tayiggwa gestures towards the passage.
On whether he has a family
The 79-year-old could pass for a loner without relatives. He admits that most people mistake him for a homeless person. Tayiggwa quickly clears the air. He has a family and children. While his wife works in America, his four daughters got married and his only son is a fish businessman in Entebbe.
“Before they stole my phone, I always received courtesy calls from my family members checking on how I was doing,” Tayiggwa laughs but quickly frowns, citing that talking on phone is somewhat a waste of time as people engage in loose and unconstructive talk. The only time he makes a phone call is when he is attending to urgent issues some of which are family-related other than that, he says, he can spend a year without calling anyone.
Although he is in the evening of his life, he says, he is still energetic to do this kind of work until he wears out. “If one day I wear out and cannot continue with this work, my children or grandchildren should continue with it because a cultural practice must be carried to the next generation,” he concludes.
SOURCE: Daily Monitor