Whenever a month comes to a close, many of us start panicking about a catalogue of family bills.
From rent to electricity to water to TV bills, we start partitioning our payment priorities in fear of instant disconnection or that nagging call from the cantankerous landlord!
This pressure is extended to school fees, tithe and other voluntary contributions to members’ clubs or saving groups. Since majority of Ugandans live an ordinary life (they call it middle class) or worse, these experiences are commonplace and we are often forced to exercise utmost financial discipline to meet such necessities amid a litany of other secondary obligations.
We are not forced; we are not reminded; we just know we have to pay. So, when Buganda Land Board recently started a massive campaign of collecting the annual nominal ground rent, popularly known as Busuulu, I was left in awe when some tenants on kingdom land complained.
Let’s not delve into the technicalities of Busuulu levies, but use the example of one specific mother of four in Wakiso district who stood in front me and questioned the need to pay Busuulu! Mindboggling!
Since she did not question the legality of Busuulu, but rather the need to pay rent for land on which she has dwelled for decades, I cited an ordinary example for her.
I am a grounded Catholic and on every end of the month, I pay the tithe (not necessarily 10% of my salary, but at least I pay). While this is not a mandatory obligation, I feel very happy to make this payment. I believe it is the same feeling by the many people I see in church and on TV raising envelopes whenever the man of God asks them to raise their tithe for a spiritual blessing.
So, I referenced Busuulu to the weekly tithe that she testified to giving and the monthly TV subscription she religiously pays. I told her that if she can pay a monthly TV subscription of Shs 20,000, what about Shs 5,000 or Shs 40,000 every year to the owner of the land on which her beautiful house rests or where she tills the food that feeds her blossoming family?
She eventually made sense of it before I could even explain the advantages of Busuulu or the fact that paying nominal ground rent is a provision of the Land Act 1998 and its subsequent 2010 amendment.
People with a similar mentality are many in society but they should be made to understand that just like your monthly house rent, Busuulu creates a good relationship between the landlord and the tenant. It further strengthens one’s grip on their respective plot since the law provides that the only way a Kibanja holder can be relieved of that ownership is by failure or refusal to pay annual nominal ground rent.
With this in mind, we have heard stories of landlords that ‘hide’ from tenants on their land and wait after the legal three years and start threatening them with eviction for non-payment of Busuulu. In other cases, courts of law have granted wishes of landlords to evict people.
So, when Buganda kingdom, the biggest mailo landlord in Uganda, offers to reach out to tenants on kingdom land through a door-to-door approach to pay Busuulu and secure their tenancy, such a gesture should be received with open hands. It is a sign the landlord not only follows the laws of the land, but also has no interest in evicting tenants.
Besides, since Busuulu is a nominal fee, it is understandable that many people are reluctant to go to the bank or visit a BLB office to pay. It is possible that someone in Kyannamukaaka would spend more money to go to a bank in Masaka town to deposit annual ground rent of Shs 2,500.
So, the approach by BLB should help everyone utilize the opportunity to pay Busuulu arrears and receive a ticket. Let us treat Busuulu like any other family necessity, a bill we ought to pay by all means. Moreover, it is the easiest of all bills since it’s paid annually to enjoy the benefits that come with land ownership.
The author is the team leader for communications at Buganda Land Board