A mission to keep time
By Elizabeth Agiro
Oct 30, 2003

Being late is supposed to be an African thing, right? Someone shuffles in, so late for the appointment, and expects you to ‘understand’ as he explains, “Oh, I’m just African.”

T-shirts touting slogans such as “no hurry in Africa” — with pictures of the elephant to go with – are not an uncommon sight on the streets.

Spade, not big spoon: Isaac Mulindwa Jr. wants some customs to go (Photos by E. Chicco).
Well, Isaac Mulindwa Jr., 38, is as African as they come. But he has an issue with this notorious culture.

He was the chairman for the just ended Pearl of Africa Music Awards that will go down in Uganda’s event annals for, among others, being one of the very few music shows that started as billed.

Mulindwa, famed for being a stern, tell-it-as-it-is type, told the media just before the show that his team would set a record. And they did.

He says, “One of my aims is to change the way things are done in this country.”

Show-goers were more than impressed that their make-up did not run forever and that they didn’t run unnecessary bar bills waiting forever for the show to kick off.

“We do have certain things that are outdated in Uganda like the bad time-keeping. Why does someone have to show up two hours after the appointed time?” queries Mulindwa.

But there is more to Mulindwa’s mission.

First, a word of caution: If you are welcoming him into your house, don’t play any 50 Cent or Craig David or any of that stuff. Ugandan music is the way to go. If you hadn’t stocked up on that, try South African.

And play it loud. That is how he likes his music – loud. Now the issues.

Ugandan musicians, Mulindwa says, are looked at as losers. But they ought to be looked at as an industry.

“Ugandans should start exporting musicians and stop exporting bananas. There is no money in them,” he says.

By Ugandan standards, Mulindwa is very unconventional – and not just with regard to time.
Or bananas.

He had never written a Curriculum Vita in his entire 38 years until two months ago when he had to apply for a loan from Orient Bank.

The loan was to finance equipment for One2net, a company whose ownership Mulindwa and four others took over two years ago. One2net is an Internet service provider in Kampala.

The trend in most urban centres in Uganda has been for businesses and individuals to go Internet – surfing, emails, websites, name it.

Mulindwa says that those who are still shying away risk “rotting”.

Some of this has been attributed to the peer factor – people wanting to be seen at Internet cafes because, well, that is where everybody is. Mulindwa says this is a good thing, even if some do it for seemingly curious reasons.

“The world does not move backwards”, he says. “So one will either move with it or stay on the side and rot”.

Along with this, Kampalans have been reported to be seeking – and, in a few cases, getting — partners through the Internet.

Says Mulindwa: “It is a global village we are living in. It is crazy meeting on the net but it reminds me of arranged marriages.”

The loves of Mulindwa’s life are Fiona and Sharifa, his wife and daughter respectively.
Sharifa, 10, studies at Rainbow International.

He describes her as autistic; a situation where a child fails to develop social abilities, language and other communication skills to the usual level. They also suffer a limitation of activities and interests.

“Though slow at learning, she is a very beautiful child,” Mulindwa says.

Fiona is the district manager of American clothes chain, Dress Band and spends most of the time in the United States. Mulindwa says this has not affected their marriage.

“We can always fly and link up anytime,” he says.

He met Fiona in 1981 in Nairobi, Kenya. They dated a couple of years before they started living together in 1991 in United States.

Mulindwa’s life has not been without some curious twists and turns.

He was in the US – Florida, to be precise – when Hurricane Andrew got underway.

Among his qualifications, Mulindwa has a certificate in General Construction and Civil Engineering from Miami Dade Community College.

With Hurricane Andrew, says Mulindwa, “Nothing was left standing. There was not a building in sight. Imagine waking up and every building in Kampala has been razed.”

In Hurricane Andrew’s wake, Mulindwa established himself in reconstruction and renovation. He started Mullens Services, a construction company that is now run by his brothers.
Mulindwa goes to the US to ‘check on things’ twice or three times a year.

So why doesn’t he just live in the US? After all, it is many a Ugandan’s dream?

Mulindwa says, “I got tired of living in the States. Life was not about money any more, it was about community, social life and friends.”

Among his accomplishments, Mulindwa adds being a good dancer.

“While others go to the gym, I go dancing to keep fit,” he says.

He doesn’t believe that this will change with age.

“Age is just a number,” he quips, then seriously, “it is what you look like, your actions and behaviour that matter”.

It should be no surprise then that apart from working with One2net, Mulindwa is the director of Silk, a popular nightclub in Kampala.

This is in partnership with Elvis Sekyanzi and Steven Kavuma among others.

He puts in time at the club every Tuesday and Friday. On Tuesday, he says his work starts at 10:30 p.m. and on Friday it could start as late as midnight.

Mulindwa believes that one is supposed, “to have fun” while working.

“Whatever you do have fun all the way,” he says.

He says he never lets pass an opportunity to have fun. “I live on the edge. I like excitement in my life.”

His favourite pastimes apart from dancing are driving fast cars and listening to loud music.
Though taken by Ugandan and South African music, he appreciates a “variety depending on the mood”.

Then he says, “I like crazy things.”

One of the things you won’t find Mulindwa doing is reading novels. But he reads magazines on travel and finance. He also likes to read “something light” occasionally.

“You can’t read economics if you are trying to get away from business,” he says.

He likes go-cart races and watches movies too.

A long time ago when he lived in Nairobi with his parents he played football and though he says he was good at the game; he gave it up because he could not find the time to train.
“Everything I do is nothing but the best. I never bet my money on anything unless I am sure to win,” he says.

Mulindwa went to Matale Primary School, then the Grange in Nairobi. In 1982, he went to England where he did his A’ Level at Kensington School.

After that it was to University at Richmond College where he majored in Finance and Accounting.

In 1991, Mulindwa went back to the United States hoping to pursue his masters, but then he got into business instead.

He lives in Buziga, Ggaba, a place he describes as very peaceful and quiet. He has two adopted children and has cousins under his care.

His role models are his parents Isaac Mulindwa Sr. and his mother, Safina who live in Kololo. He is the second of their 10 children.

What drives Mulindwa is success.

When doing anything, he counsels, “however small it is, make it successful. Don’t run after money, run after success and money will follow.”

He is at his most reflective when having a shower. At that point, nobody “bothers him” because it’s his private time.

In case you were wondering, Mulindwa is happy with his life as it is. He says: “If I were to die today, I would have no regrets. I have had a full great life.”


© 2003 The Monitor Publications


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