By Lawrence Kazooba
Businessman and former Africa Rally Champion Charles Muhangi died Thursday morning in his sleep. Doctors say he succumbed to a cardiac arrest.
Muhangi will never tell the pain and sorrow he has suffered in the pursuit to repossess the properties at the centre of a fight with fellow businessmen Drake Lubega and Yanga Matovu.
The properties in question sit on a 0.518 hectare piece of land in downtown Kisenyi. They include Qualicel Bus Terminal, Qualicel building and Nabukera Plaza.
It is about 10 years since this fight started.
But it is believed security officers, courts, and politicians have only worsened this battle. In November, President Museveni put his feet down and ordered that Muhangi starts collecting dues from said investments.
The story of how courts have ruled and overturned their own rulings has been told numerous times. However, how police refused to enforce court orders like they do elsewhere, has been an elusive one.
The source Watchdog Uganda spoke to after Muhangi was pronounced dead said, the deceased has been battling for this space since 2006.
However, even orders meted out in High and Supreme courts were never enforced by police led by former chief Kale Kayihura. Instead, police was deployed to block Muhangi from accessing the site.
The courts awarded Muhangi possession of the said property, as well as damages, fines, lawyers fees among others amounting to Shs120 billion.
So what was the fight between Lubega and Muhangi about?
A source privy to the matter told Watchdog Uganda that Lubega wanted to build a shopping mall on his plot bordering Muhangi’s. However it was small.
So he approached Muhangi with an offer to buy a piece of the land in which he parks buses. The said space Lubega wanted was too small two buses could barely fit, so, they agreed on the price. Muhangi would give instructions to his lawyers to process the sale of the said plot.
Behind Muhangi’s back, it’s said, Lubega colluded with Muhangi’s lawyer to transfer the entire title. Muhangi realized much later. Court battles didn’t stop Lubega from completing his shopping mall Qualicel.
It’s said after Lubega acquired this piece of land, he went ahead and sold part of it to Mansour Matovu.
The battle for Qualicel did not leave Muhangi the same person. Whereas he maintained a calm demeanor, he never trusted even his shadow. By the time of his death, Muhangi would not eat in the same place twice, or be served by the same waiter twice. He carried his own water and changed cars when traveling far. Our source told us that Muhangi actually survived several attempts on his life including poisoning, accidents or physical attacks.
Therefore, he was mentally tortured man, and it is not surprising he suffered a cardiac arrest forcing him to prematurely meet his creator.
It’s not clear who was pursuing Muhangi. However, his friends even say, he quit motor sport in fear for his life although he was set to return to the sport he dominated in the late 90s.
He was planning a major celebration especially after taking over properties he had battled for.
On Thursday, tenants say he had offered them a pro Bono month to organize themselves and even reduced rent for starting next January.
Even police, under Museveni’s instructions, had switched sides to protecting the court order.
Muhangi will never reap the fruits of his hard fought battle.
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