Retired Maj Gen Jim Muhwezi has said he is not in any way involved in a property row pitting wealthy businessman, Karim Hirji and his stepchildren.
Muhwezi said reports of him taking part in the dispute were “rubbish” and “a complete fabrication.”
Hirji, the owner of Imperial hotels in Uganda, is accused by his stepchildren, of grabbing the estate of their late mother Ziba Nanyonga Hirji alias Charm.
The late Charm had three children before she got married to Hirji in 1985. Linda Birungi, the eldest daughter, is the petitioner on behalf of her siblings; Ronnie Birungi and Anita Birungi.
Hirji and Charm had three other children namely; Karima Hirji, Anisha Hirji and Nabila Hirji.
Charm died on February 8, 2004 from Cromwell hospital in London and was buried at Kololo cemetery. She left several properties worth billions of shillings both in Uganda and the UK.
According to the Observer, the trio accuse Hirji and his friend Joseph Ssempebwa of transferring the deceased’s property into their own names as absolute owners, misappropriating monies from both her accounts and proceeds from her life insurance policy.
Audio: Jim Muhwezi dismissing allegations of being involved Karim’s family affairs
ChimpReports understands the children recently held a press conference appealing to Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga to intervene with the view of finding a lasting solution to their concerns.
However, a one Zalwa Al Fanta Swammit said on Facebook that Gen Muhwezi asked the Speaker to assist the petitioners against Karim.
Zalwa also alleged that Muhwezi said the lawyers reportedly involved in the case – Attorney General, William Byaruhanga and Masembe Kanyerezi were “legal mafia.”
Zalwa further alleged that Muhwezi also queried the competence and integrity of Byaruhanga who reportedly worked with Masembe to grab several prime properties in Kampala belonging to departed Treasury secretary Chris Kassami among others.
Muhwezi speaks out
In response, Muhwezi dismissed the entire social media report as fake news.
“It has come to my attention that a story that is now trending using my name and picture alleges that I met the Speaker of Parliament and that in our discussion I made insulting remarks against Hon William Byaruhanga, the Attorney General and Mr Masembe Kanyerezi. The same story also claims that I am involved in property matters concerning Mr Karim Hirji and his family,” said Muhwezi in a statement to ChimpReports.
“I want to state categorically that this story and all its declarations are completely untrue and absolute rubbish. I have never met with Rt Hon Speaker of Parliament to discuss Hon Byaruhanga and Mr Kanyerezi in any capacity nor have I discussed Mr Karim Hirji’s family affairs. The statements made in this story are a complete fabrication and this statement should serve to debunk the entire narrative,” he added.
The Muhwezis are friends of Byaruhanga and Masembe.
Byaruhanga spoke at the wedding of Kassami’s son and Muhwezi’s daughter in Kampala earlier this year. Byaruhanga also was a personal friend of Kassami.
The Kassami family also rubbished allegations that Byaruhanga sought to grab their properties.
“William (Byaruhanga) has been a good friend to our family. He was very close to my husband. He is more like a brother. We look up to him as a family. We have been through thick and thin,” said Podi Kassami, the widow of Kassami.
“The first person to respond if we had a problem was William. Whatever they are saying is utter nonsense,” she added.
Jasi Kassami, the deceased Treasury Secretary, described the claims against Byaruhanga as “ridiculous” and “shocking”, adding, “We were lucky” to have William as an executor of their father’s will.
“We would be in court if there was a dispute about it. What we are trying to do is honour his (Kassami) memory and grow the assets that were left there. Everything was followed to the letter… we had support, someone who had knowledge of the law… As a friend and trustee, he (Byaruhanga) honoured his responsibility and gone above and beyond as an uncle to me and a friend to my late father,” said Jasi.
Muhwezi recently announced plans to reclaim the Rujumbura County MP seat which he lost to FDC’s Fred Tumuheirwe Turyamuhweza in the 2016 polls.
Fake news crisis
Cases of weaponized fake news have been on the rise in recent months as the country prepares for the 2021 elections.
In March, Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) said it had observed an “increase in cases of misinformation and publication of fake news, videos and advice through digital platforms by individuals misusing communications platforms to publish, distribute and forward false, unverified, and/or misleading stories and reports.”
UCC said such conduct can cause unfounded public anxiety and incitement of violence against persons hence putting lives in danger.
“UCC takes exception to this criminality and wishes to advise that any persons found to be engaging in creating, initiating the transmission of, circulating, and/or forwarding, fake stories and misinformation using communication facilities, service or applications shall be apprehended and prosecuted for offending the Computer Misuse Act, 2011, the Data Protection and Privacy Act, 2019 and/or other Penal laws of Uganda,” said the communications regulatory body.