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

Whether intentionally or otherwise, these free-spending socialites are trying to expose the taxation system.

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 

IN SUMMARY

  • 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.

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.

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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-throwing culture. Jack Pemba is a Tanzanian tycoon resident in Kampala.

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 national legal tender, as poor Ugandans eagerly waited to pick up the wet notes that Pemba obviously couldn’t return to his wallet. I don’t know what else he wipes with bank notes. Thank God the president’s face isn’t on our money.

Mr Pemba is not a young man, no wonder he has been advising a younger man, Brian White, to be humble and avoid showing off. Brian White is the man of the moment in Kampala. He too is giving away cash like it is going to be abolished tomorrow. 

Brian White’s history is unknown. All the public knows about him is that he also re-emerged from South Africa but nobody seems to know when he went there. He is busy receiving people’s petitions, and responding promptly. People appeal to White over unpaid school fees or being abandoned by husbands, and he gives them millions of shillings.

Brian White is of lean build, and Ugandans are wondering why with so much money, he doesn’t look well fed. But they aren’t wondering too hard. They are busier submitting their petitions to him for funding.

For now, he is hurting some preachers who transmit people’s prayer wishes for a better life to God. Brian White answers your prayers directly and immediately.

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