One of the urban legends in Kampala is how tycoon Sudhir Ruparelia has amassed wealth by grabbing people’s property. For the uninitiated, an urban legend is a humorous or horrific story or piece of information circulated as though true, especially one purporting to involve someone vaguely related or known to the teller.
One of these stories is about how he “grabbed” Kampala Parents School from its founder former Mubende Municipality MP Bwerere Kasole. In an interview that he granted to Eagle Online from his Buloba home, Kasole denied the rumour, instead painting Sudhir as a saviour who rescued him from loans that threatened to drown him.
For clarity, these loans were from East African Development Bank and Greenland Bank, not Sudhir’s Crane Bank. Kasole says his friend Andrew Kasagga popularly known as Zimwe introduced him to Sudhir when he was looking for buyers for the school. “It was a willing buyer willing seller scenario and he paid in cash.” Kasole says.
Kasole dismisses the social media messages that have been making rounds claiming he had said Sudhir stole his school as fake and untrue. He says he was surprised by such messages and warns that unless regulations are put in place for Internet users, many are to suffer at the hands of mischievous people.
Kasole says the genesis of his financial woes started when he took loans to build a new campus and shift Kampala Parents School from its previous location along Namirembe Road to Naguru after the property was returned to the original owners, Indians who had been expelled by the Idi Amin Regime in the 1970s.
Kasole faults a section of parents and some teachers at school led by Mr. Peter Nyombi, (Former Attorney General) who was then a parent at the school for going behind his back,stealing his pupils and re-opening the old location as another school (City Parents) which made it impossible for him to service his loan as projected.
“12 of the teachers I had been using the other side (Namirembe Road) one is Nyombi Peter, a former Attorney General and the other now a Bishop, were paid and grabbed my pupils I had the other side (Namirembe road). In fact, they just made a few changes to my former school. They replaced ‘Kampala’ with ‘City’ to make it City Parents Primary School from Kampala Parents Primary School,” he said.
Below is the interview in full
How did you start Kampala Parents School?
I started Kampala Parents School in 1975, and it was the first private school and this alone landed me in prison for a week when President Idi Amin questioned how a Ugandan could start a private primary school.
How did you manage to succeed then after all the trouble?
When in power, President Milton Obote (II) had appointed me as a custodian of the land along Namirembe Road in appreciation for my contribution towards Uganda’s education. I didn’t pay any rent. He told me that if time came to sell it off by its owners, I would be given priority to buy it.
I constructed three flats on the land. Unfortunately, when government changed with the arrival of the NRM government, the laws changed and properties were returned back to the previous Indian owners who had been expelled by the Amin regime.
What happened after the custodian properties were returned to the owners?
Following this incident, I had to shift my school. At the time I had over 1850 pupils. Preparing to relocate, I reached an agreement with my friend, Andrew Kasagga (the late Zzimwe of Zzimwe Constructions) who had seven pupils in the school. He was to help me construct another school in Naguru. I got a loan from Greenland Bank and East Africa Development Bank.
However, the money was still not enough. But this didn’t stop him from going ahead with the work. He agreed to construct the school and I was to pay him his balance later. The would be interest on his balance was that his seven children were to study for free till completion. It was a good deal. We agreed he was to complete constructing the school in 12 months but it was finished even a month earlier. It was completed after just 11 months.
After making my assessment, I came to a conclusion that I was likely to lose 500 pupils out of 1850 because of the change in location of the school. I intended to use the cash flow from the remaining pupils to pay off the loans I had borrowed from East African Development Bank but I was mistaken.
What followed after the transfer of location of the school?
12 of the teachers I had been using the other side (Namirembe Road) and a section of parents and one is Nyombi (Peter), a former Attorney General and the other is now a Bishop were paid and grabbed my pupils I had the other side (Namirembe Road). In fact, they just made a few changes to my former school. They replaced ‘Kampala’ with ‘City’ to make it City Parents Primary School from Kampala Parents Primary School.
They even never changed the school uniform save for slight changes on the school badge. For the Bishop, if he were to enter church when I am inside, I would get out. He is a treacherous man.
When they took away my pupils, those I had (Naguru) could not settle the loans like I had acquired. The interest on the loans was accumulating yet I had no other option. Around the same period Greenland Bank was embroiled in problems. I knew by delaying to pay the loans, I was risking.
How did you come to meet Sudhir and did you have a loan with him as it is alleged that he grabbed the school from you after failing to repay?
In the process of trying to settle the loans, I went out as a willing seller and Mr Sudhir (Ruparelia) came out as a willing buyer. Among the three possible buyers, Sudhir had the best offer. He was to pay all the money at once unlike the other two who wanted to complete payment after years; possibly from the fees from my pupils. We sat down (myself and Sudhir) and agreed on terms. He paid me cash… cash down. So all these saying that Sudhir grabbed my school I just don’t have any idea of where they are getting that from.
I never had any loan with Sudhir nor did I own any account in his bank at the time. I only got to know Sudhir through Kasagga who brought him to me as a buyer of the school and he fully paid me. Unfortunately the key witness (the late Zzimwe) is no longer around. However, his friends; Kirumira (Godffrey), Mugenga (Tom) his close friends are all aware. I don’t demand anything from him. In fact he saved me because I had loans that I had failed to pay the loans.
Did you exit the school immediately after selling or you remained with some shares?
On selling off the school to him, he requested me to stay and continue as his employee, saying he was a businessman and had no knowledge about education. I told him that if I was to stay behind, all the team I had been working with was also to stay behind. I signed a one year contract as chairman board of directors of the school. It was actually in that year that I opened an account in his bank since all his employees were paid from that bank (Crane Bank). I used to chair all of the meetings and also used to train him. Upon completion of my contract, I quit to concentrate on my constituency (Buwekula, Mubende). I left in good faith and actually some the teachers I left there, one is still there while another just left last year. We are friends up to today.
So is it true that you made complains about the school as being portrayed on social media?
Actually when I heard rumours claiming that had told the press that he grabbed my school, I was the first person to call him to apologise for I hadn’t talked to any media.
How is life outside politics?
Life outside politics is nice….because when you get out of politics you enjoy
How is Mubende Parents, the school you started after selling KPS?
It is doing well but I have left the management to my children because as you can see, I can’t be in the running of day to day affairs. I am professional teacher and I enjoyed my work and that could explain how the schools I have managed have been successful.
What occupies you at the moment?
I am into agriculture and if you had come to Mubende, you would return with full sacks of maize because this season alone, I harvested over 250 bags. However, I came here at my residence (Buloba) to check on the construction of apartments and do a medical check-up with my doctors. We have left the city for you young people.
(CREDIT: This interview first run on eagle.co.ug)