The first socialite I ever came into contact with was/is a woman called Tara Palmer-Tomkinson. Born of an aristocratic stock in England, Tara seemed to do nothing else but attend parties, premieres and get totally sloshed.
No, no, no! I never met her physically. However, she used to write a column about her exploits in the Sunday Times and I found it recommended reading whenever I was able to raise my head up from my own exertions on the Sunday morning after the night before. I guess I was fascinated that someone who did absolutely nothing could have had such a glamorous life, flying to Gstaad with the high and mighty one moment, turning up at the launch of Versace’s latest collection in Milan the next and ending up in London’s Knightbridge doing what she did best: drink expensive champagne and struggle to hang on to her dignity when she got totally drunk which seemed like always.
What Tara lacked in paid work, she more than made up for by being able to write about her ritzy life in a witty, self-deprecating style that made for very entertaining copy.
It was fairly clear that not only had Tara been born with an aristocratic silver spoon in her mouth, she had also taken her English classes seriously. Her most memorable byline for me was when chided a young man who must have had some sexual designs on her to first “put a sock in it.” Then she delivered the coup de grâce with the quip: “Oh you already did, silly me.” It was one of the most amusing put-downs a woman could have conjured about a man’s lack of ‘size’ and Tara delivered it with characteristic panache.
Tara had the pedigree, the flair, the education and ability to write that made her stand out as an IT girl of the 90s.
Alas, not so the so-called socialites one reads about in the press in Uganda today.
It is difficult not to sound as though you are hateful if you use the words gaudy, gauche, garish, in the same sentence. But those are the words that come
to mind when one thinks of Uganda’s ‘socialites today.
Like Tara, they, too, seem to have a lot of time and money to spend at all sorts of parties. But that is where the comparison ends.
Uganda has become notorious for producing the most ill-educated, ill-bred, gaudy, gauche, garish (there, those words all in one sentence) socialites you can imagine. If they are not waving around wads of [likely fake] dollars, they are stepping out of helicopters in the middle of a national football tournament or riding around in [always used] luxury cars whose exaggerated costs they have carefully whispered into the ears of a gullible and foolish press corps.
Socialites wouldn’t be who they were if they didn’t have a knack for self-promotion, but what’s puzzling is how Ugandan journalists and the public lap it up without question. It must of course be about the age-old fascination we have for people who seem to have the life we would want to live if we could afford it. Either that or it is the morbid fascination human beings tend to have for car wrecks or dead bodies.
The Ugandan press has happily obliged in propagating the paper-thin images of these barely schooled, over-the-top ‘celebrities. Michael Ezra, a crook of yonder years, managed to hoodwink the press for so long that even when the Kenyan police finally caught up with his scams, the Ugandan press continued to fawn over him. After all, hadn’t he handed out blank checks to journalists and a church? The man was rich and anyone who didn’t believe it was jealous.
Around the time that Michael Ezra’s was coming unstuck, a woman called Bad Black was riding high. Ugly, barely literate and tacky to a fault, she gained notoriety by booking up entire tables in multiple night spots and not showing up to most of them despite having bought booze to go along with the bookings. Apparently, she repeatedly failed to get it into her head that there are only a couple of hours in a night.
Bad Black also became famous for handing out $100 dollar bills to strangers in night clubs, when she was not picking up the entire drinks tab for whoever was interested in drinking free booze.
Ezra was in a Kenyan jail, charged with forgery and fraud the last time I checked. Bad Black is in a Ugandan jail serving four years for embezzling more than $6m from a business account her boyfriend had opened with the intention of buying real estate. Both characters are exactly where they belong.
In that mix has now emerged yet another dubious character who has proved rather good at self-promotion. He calls himself Desh Kananura and, until last weekend, was riding high on a wave of popularity (despite rumors of a multitude of crippling debts) that had sections of the press eating out of the palm of his hand because he put it out there that he was rich, well-connected and owned a ‘happening’ nightclub called Panamera, no doubt named so after the luxury Porsche vehicle of the same name.
That all came crashing down around his ears last weekend when, it would seem, he beat up and killed one of his waiters over 30,000/= ($12.00) and threw the dead man’s body into the trash. Kananura is now on the run, a fugitive from the law, his night club (it is slowly coming to light that he wasn’t the sole owner as he had made out) has been closed and he is going to struggle to make the kind of splashes he has been famous for if he is tried and convicted of the murder of that waiter.
To quote from a friend on another forum, in Uganda that is how ‘we be.’ Crooks, cads, cheats, charlatans, routinely ride high, often with a lot of help from a pliable and, dare one say it, complicit press corps. Then it all inevitably comes crashing down and others take their place before the ink dries on their sentencing documents.
Most Ugandans seem unwilling to accept the old adage: if you have to talk about being classy or rich, you are not! which is how these empty suits continue to hoodwink them with ephemeral riches.
Spending a little time, internalizing it wouldn’t come amiss … but then life wouldn’t be so entertaining, would it?