In April, 2018, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa was exiting a conference hall during the Commonwealth Heads-of-State in London, United Kingdom when he met his Ugandan counterpart, Yoweri Museveni.
“Mr President, I think my son has seen a flower in your country,” Ramaphosa told Museveni without providing details.
Museveni didn’t probe further. He simply answered, “I know about it.”
President Ramaphosa was referring to his son Andile Ramaphosa who was planning to wed his fiancée Bridget Birungi, a niece of former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi.
Speaking at the couple’s introduction ceremony held at Mbabazi’s residence in Kololo, Kampala this past Saturday, Ramaphosa said Museveni’s reaction made him “feel at home and more comfortable.”
Earlier, Ramaphosa had telephoned MTN Uganda Chairman Charles Mbiire to help get in touch with the Mbabazi family to facilitate the marriage ceremonies.
Mbiire held multiple meetings with Mbabazi’s family; kick-starting preparations for the marriage activities.
Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda led the organising committee while Mbiire was he Katerarume (Go-between/mediator) on behalf of the Ramaphosas.
Mbiire urged Ramaphosa to ring President Museveni about his son’s intentions to marry Birungi. But the South African leaders failed to reach Museveni on phone. The two leaders would later meet in UK during Chogm.
Addressing guests at Kololo, Ramaphosa recalled his first encounter with President Museveni at his country home in Rwakitura.
Ramaphosa was leading a delegation of businessmen interested in doing business in Uganda.
“We walked to the President where he was attending to his cattle. I saw the most beautiful cattle I have ever seen. I saw nothing interesting about him. I looked at his beautiful and tall daughter and said I choose the cattle and nothing else,” said Ramaphosa as Museveni smiled.
“I now have two herds of cattle in Kenya and South Africa.”
He said plans to sell off a herd of Ankole cattle in Kenya were met with resistance from Kenyan authorities who said they had turned into a tourist attraction.
Andile and Birungi met in China where they were pursuing their post-graduate studies.
One time Ramaphosa traveled with his wife to China.
Andile didn’t want to disclose his girlfriend to his parents.
“So he brought several friends – females and males. They all came. We kept looking for who could be his girlfriend. We looked for all sorts of mannerisms and failed,” recalled Ramaphosa.
On the second day, Ramaphosa’s wife discovered that Birungi was wearing shoes which looked similar to Andile’s.
“She said that could be her. We looked at her closely. Over the years it was confirmed,” he added.
Ramaphosa said Birungi had found a “really nice guy”, adding, “Many girls are envious of you. Even on social media, South African ladies were asking, ‘why go far when we are here.’ Don’t know you fell in love in China.”
Andile was visibly excited throughout the event. He sat comfortably near his mother, who divorced Ramaphosa.
“Never let him go. I have never seen him so kinder and loving,” Ramaphosa described his son.
The event was graced by the Chief Justice Bart Katureebe, businessman Sudhir Ruparelia, Minister Okello Oryem, tycoon Mayur Madhvani, Amos Nzeyi, Benjamin Odoki, Eng Godfrey Mutabazi, FDC’s Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu among others.
Ramaphosa said Andile was lucky to be brought up by two mothers, whose “alliance” made him “walk the straight line.”
Ramaphosa advised Birungi that, “Whenever he (Andile) gives you trouble, call them (mothers). He will deal with them.”
The South African president further said, “Whoever marries in us becomes a family builder. You are expected not only to be a wife but a family builder. The Ugandan and South African girl, we welcome you to the Ramaphosa family,” he said amid a standing ovation.
“By taking the most beautiful person to South Africa, we combine the beauties of two countries.”
Ramaphosa praised Museveni for gracing the marriage ceremony of his son.
“Taking more than 8 hours of a President is quite something,” said Ramaphosa.
“It’s under his leadership that Uganda demonstrated clearly where they stood as a country to our struggle. Uganda supported our struggle. Thank you to President Museveni,” said Ramaphosa.
He said Uganda supported South African fighters to fight apartheid.
‘This meant sacrificing its own development to give us political, material, diplomatic and educational support and in more ways you can imagine. You acted in solidarity with us in our darkest days of the struggle. We can’t thank you enough as a people of Uganda,” he said.
Museveni Meets Ramaphosa
Museveni excited guests when he said, “Apart from helping you with your national problems, I am a cattle keeper.”
He added: “One day on the farm, I was told some South Africans wanted to talk to me about the phones (telecommunications business). Ramaphosa was leading them.”
Ramaphosa owns a stake in MTN, a multi-billion dollar telecommunication business in Africa. With Mbiire, they started MTN Uganda here after meeting Museveni at his farm.
“Ramaphosa was so excited by the Ankole cows. After a few months, he came back to buy some of the cows. But he underpaid me,” said Museveni, sending guests including Jacqueline Mbabazi into laugher.
Museveni said Ramaphosa is not only “appreciative of Africa heritage” but a “serious businessman.”
He said some people who come to his farm are preoccupied with ‘football’ instead of taking interest in modern commercial farming.
“I later learnt that President Ramaphosa was a very active businessman, a freedom fighter and a person who deeply appreciates the African heritage because of his love for Ankole cows,” he said.
The ceremony was characterized by the fusion of Kikiga traditions of Uganda and those of the Venda tribe of South Africa from where the groom hails.
Museveni congratulated the couple for finding each other during their studies in China and for practically linking the Great Lakes Region and South Africa.
He also commended Mbabazi and his wife Jacqueline for their contribution in the upbringing of Birungi whose father Shadrack Rwakairu was brutally murdered during the struggle to oust the Amin regime in the 1970s.
Mr. Museveni informed the gathering that on account of bad politics, over 800,000 Ugandans were extra-judicially killed between 1966 and 1986, adding that those atrocities created social crisis to a big number of orphans and widows.
He said that when the NRM took over power in 1986, an attempt was made to manage the crisis by setting up institutional schools for the children of the fallen fighters in Nakasongola, Jinja, Masindi and a Kadogo’s School in Mbarara.
He said because of the overwhelming numbers families, the next of kin had to lend a hand in bringing up orphans.