Socialites who hand out free cash: Tax dodgers or people protesting the system?

Wednesday December 6 2017

Like a true Tanzanian of advancing age, Pemba

Like a true Tanzanian of advancing age, Pemba is a humble man who even washes his car with his own hands. A video circulated last year showing him washing the car himself, using champagne and wiping the car dry using Uganda's national legal tender as poor Ugandans eagerly waited to pick up the wet notes. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGAH | NMG 

By JOACHIM BUWEMBO
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Until recently, I used to be irritated by Uganda’s socialites, who literally throw hard cash at crowds of people as if they are possessed, but now I know better. These people have a reason they do it, even if they haven’t articulated that reason coherently.

Whether intentionally or otherwise, these free-spending socialites are trying to expose the taxation system. Broadly, the moral purpose of taxation is to collect money from those who have in order to finance public services for those who have not. So the dissatisfied socialites are doing things their own way, especially for the cause they believe in – entertainment.

We had a guy called Mike Ezra a decade ago who kept giving cash to sports enthusiasts, serving the Uganda Cranes a hundred thousand dollars on a wide plate when they beat a strong team.

Then we got Bad Black, a young woman who liked giving away cash to any group of revellers she found enjoying themselves in a public place.

After Black, we got a guy called Ivan Semwanga (at least he stuck to his Ugandan name unlike the other money throwers who adopt English-sounding aliases.) Semwanga had relocated poor to South Africa, and re-emerged in Kampala loaded, with one mission, to physically throw cash at people.

Nobody ever complained at being hit with a wad of cash. When he finally died earlier in the year, friends threw cash into his grave to cover the coffin. A High Court petition by a concerned citizen to have the grave broken and rescue the buried national currency notes failed, so the man will rest eternally in cash.

Even immigrants, apparently touched by the government’s inefficient wealth redistribution mechanism, have joined in the money-th