The graves are still fresh, the overflowing flowers wilted by the scorching sunshine that persisted during the week that Ugandans mourned a marine tragedy like none the country has seen in recent times.
The graves belong to Templar Junior Bisase and his wife Sheila Nalubowa Bisase. When the blue, wobbly MV Templar capsized on November 24 in Lake Victoria killing at least 32 people, its owners the Bisases were part of the fatalities.
In the aftermath of the accident, many have wondered how Bisase would have lived with himself, had he survived the accident, given the guilt and legal battle that possibly lay ahead for him, now that it has been confirmed the boat was not seaworthy. Still the question lingers; who really was Templar Bisase?
The party-loving businessman, who had been struggling with a spate of ill- health before that final boat cruise, was born in 1977, with a silver spoon in his mouth, as the saying goes. With royal connections – Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi’s mother Sarah Nalule Kisosonkole (RIP) was Bisase’s paternal aunt – those who knew him growing up say his was a privileged life.
His old friends at St Balikuddembe SS Mitala Maria where he was a student, say Bisase lived a very luxurious life and never lacked anything at school, since he was a favoured child to his father Templar Senior Bisase.
“Templar had every anything at school and many students admired him. His father loved him so much. He lived a luxurious life but was a very calm man, soft-spoken and you couldn’t predict him. We even wondered how he got in touch with Sheila, who was in the same school,” Richard Ssali Sentongo, a former classmate, told The Observer.
Bisase went on to marry his high school sweetheart and checked out of this world with her on that fateful Saturday. Sheila’s 40th birthday came a day after her burial; her friends, who had a surprise birthday party in store for her, are still shell-shocked.
Bisase joined St Balikuddembe SS Mitala Maria in S3, in 1994, at a time when the school was at its peak, thanks to a hugely popular music album the choir had produced. Bisase was joining from Busoga College Mwiri, and he was reportedly a very bright student especially in Mathematics where he regularly topped his class.
Ssali says, however, Bisase never completed S4 at Mitala Maria, since he was suspended with other students for disobeying school rules. Ssali, now a businessman on Nasser road in Kampala, says from St Balikuddembe, Bisase joined another school he does not remember, but later joined St Lawrence University and graduated with a degree in architecture. He was a design partner at TCI Consult.
“He made money in architecture but later joined the boat cruise business which has been his major source of income for over five years now. He bought that boat and they have been working together with his wife Sheila. He has been aggressive in business and strict on financial management, which helped him grow,” he says.
“In fact Templar met Sheila Nalubowa Bisase in S3 at St Balikuddembe and that is where they started their relationship until death [parted them]. They have been moving together all the time and doing their businesses together,” Ssali says.
The Bisases are survived by three children. Ssali last met Bisase and his wife at Alfredo pub in Bukoto last year, where they invited him for one of their boat cruises and he promised them to honour their invite soon. However, Ssali admits he never had any intentions to step onto MV Templar, because he has a phobia for water.
A close relative to Bisase, who requested anonymity, told The Observer the 41-year-old businessman was an excellent swimmer. In fact, those who have gone for his boat cruises before say whenever the boat reached deep waters, Bisase would dive into the lake and swim alongside the boat, then get back on board to enjoy with friends.
“There was neither water nor waves that Templar couldn’t manage to swim through. However, we don’t know what happened this time. Some fishermen told us his left leg got stuck in fishing nets and that is how he drowned,” the relative says.
According to Ssali, on the fateful Saturday, he was again invited by Moses Muyenga, an usher who drowned, but he [Ssali] did not go because he had a busy schedule. Muyenga was also Bisase and Ssali’s ‘old boy’ from Mitala Maria.
“Muyenga also died in this boat accident and was buried in Busunju on Monday, and on Tuesday we buried Templar and his wife,” Ssali says.
The Bisases’ funeral service was held at Kira Anglican church on November 27, where it was also revealed that Bisase had kidney and heart problems, but he had got a kidney donor and they were still negotiating terms.
“As old boys of St Balikuddembe years 1992 to 1995, we managed to collect Shs 1m and handed it over to Sheila’s sister to assist the children.”
Bisase has been the heir to Templar Senior Bisase who died last year. The Bisases were laid to rest in Kyaliwajjala in a plot known for its beautiful mausoleums, one of which holds the remains of nine prominent relatives of the Kabaka on his maternal side – the Kisosonkoles.
Bisase and his wife’s resting places are to the right of a beautiful house that looks like any other on first sight, only that it holds just nine graves, including that of the Kabaka’s late mother. So beautiful is the Bakisosonkole Burial grounds in Kira-Namugongo division, that the family is reportedly considering turning them into a tourist site.
The beautiful house is always locked and only opens during Bakisosonkole family reunions or for the cleaners. This connection to the Buganda royal family could be one of the reasons why Kabaka’s younger brother Prince David Fredrick Wasajja was on MV Templar, in the first place, a fact that has caused uproar and social media attacks in the aftermath of the tragedy.
Bisase’s sister Damali Bisase refused to talk to media about her brother. Since Kisosonkole family had acquired a big chunk of land from Ssekabaka Muteesa II and have sold to many families stretching from Namugongo - Kira to Gayaza - Namavundu, sources say Bisase has also been involved in land issues concerning Block 185 in Kyadondo and Kira municipalities.
MV Templar had set off from KK beach in Ggaba, heading to KPalm Resort in Mukono, which the Bisases also owned. But the boat capsized near Mutima beach in Mukono where it tried to dock as an emergency. Only 27 people were rescued, and among them was Prince Wasajja.