Marriage has always been a political and class affair. Not just love. Not chance encounters. We marry those we are “conditioned” to meet, but also who fit into our preconceived notions of beauty and tastes.
Interestingly, our sensibilities towards beauty and taste are not born, but cultivated over time. Since it is men who often make the first move, we grow up to love a skinny damsel or a sumptuous girl not because of any genetic inclination, but socio-economic conditioning.
There is an appreciable degree of fluidity as our tingles swing from one corner to the other, but for the same reasons: class. Indeed, love is only a secondary but avoidable development.
Places where we meet those we end up marrying are either of educational, work, religious or relaxation nature. Kampala Club. Café Javas. Hajji Sebankyaye, Wandegeya. King’s College Budo. Namagabi SS, Kayunga. These places are the living embodiments of power and class relations.
Even within a single religious denomination, there is class, power and politics. Those who pray at Lubaga cathedral may find it difficult praying at Kalerwe parish church. Not because the message delivered in these two places is necessarily different, or God is nearer in one than in the other, but the props and packaging of the message are certainly diametrically apart.
Look, Kalerwe may not have enough parking spaces for our driving brethren, and the priest borrows his figures of speech from the register of work in the nearby sprawling market. Our fashionable Catholic faithful employed in the NGO industry (it is an industry) with offices in Kololo or along Kanjokya street will definitely find Kalerwe parish church painstaking.
And the reverse is true. Thus, if they were to find a potential wife, their choices are predefined by the churches they attend.
By that route, I come to the love affair between the son of one of South Africa’s richest persons, President Cyril Ramaphosa, and a niece of Uganda’s former prime minister, former minister of Defence, and 2016 presidential candidate, Amama Mbabazi. That they met at a university in China is a story of the economic and social levels of their guardians.
For obvious reasons, no one knows how rich Uganda’s former prime minister is, but we know that his in-law on the other side is the 42nd richest man in South Africa, Africa’s biggest economy, with a net worth of US$ 450 million.
We are, therefore, made to believe Amama Mbabazi’s distant relations have been going to the same schools as the children of South Africa’s wealthiest. That is quite something.
Since the Mbabazis, as public servants, cannot afford to patronise the same spaces as the Ramaphosas on that meagre salary, this tells us about the public resources misused while the Mbabazis had access.
However, Mbabazi’s apparent misuse of our resources is a small matter. There is a bigger one concerning South African capital moving northwards into East Africa.
More South Africans are buying land and getting involved in extractive industries northwards. Uganda is a soft and easy target. Our country has showed great potential for mineral exploitation, and one way of making permanent presence for a non-Ugandan is adding a real human affair to business.
You could not miss this business angle during the May 19 function in Kampala. The spokesperson of the Ramaphosa family was businessman Charles Mbire, a broader South African businesspeople agent in Kampala.
He is also one of the big names behind South Africa-connected Umeme, which is making a kill in Uganda. Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda spoke for the Mbabazis. With him came power and authority to a dull function that took the form of a trade agreement signing ceremony. (Our introduction ceremonies take a distinctive tempo and atmosphere, which was completely lacking in Kololo).
In truth, this was a business meeting requiring government presence as Ramaphosa junior seeks to win the hearts of Ugandans as an in-law.
Like many before her, it is possible that for her talents, the belle from Kigezi mesmerised the lad from South Africa.
And whatever I have said above could be a misreading. But beware; Obote convinced Buganda he loved Miria. Idi Amin, Adoko Nekyon, and many others have married their way to power and wealth.
The author is a PhD fellow at Makerere Institute of Social Research.