Muhwezi Wife, Santa Anzo Fight For Juicy Agoa Post
By John V Sserwaniko
A bitter war has erupted between Senior AGOA Presidential Advisor Susan Muhwezi and youthful fashion entrepreneur Santa Anzo who trades under the Arapapa Models.
Anzo stands accused of using her company to gain unlimited access to the President from whom she has been obtaining lots of financial support and other grants ostensibly to promote Uganda’s ability to export under the AGOA initiative that permits African countries to export a range of products to the US market duty-free.
Whereas Anzo was cagey discussing specifics, reliable State House sources say she was sometime back sent to State House Comptroller Lucy Nakyobe to pick a grant of Shs1bn as ordered by the President personally. Prior to that, sources maintain, she had been supported with another Shs300m ordered by Museveni who in a separate engagement also generously marketed her to Uhuru Kenyatta during the presidential dinner at Serena Hotel where he introduced her as “one of the most transformative young entrepreneurs we have in Uganda.”
Very reliable State House sources confirmed that this pampering greatly infuriated Susan Muhwezi who has exclusively and solely monopolized Museveni’s audience and attention on matters regarding Uganda’s private sector’s potential to export to the US under AGOA. Sources close to her say that Susan Muhwezi has always been plotting how to revenge on Santa Anzo who confirmed in a phone interview with us that she has always been warned as much on the consequences of crossing into what Mrs. Muhwezi considers to be her personal territory not withstanding absence of any results to show for her 17 years of AGOA engagements.
We were unable to get Susan Muhwezi despite our repeated efforts through the weekend calling on her two publicly known phone lines. But Santa Anzo confirmed the President has been very supportive of her efforts to export fashion products and fabrics to the US to boost Uganda’s foreign exchange earnings.
Anzo, who heads the Fashion sector as categorized under the USAID East Africa Trade and Investment initiative, recalled the President previously attending her Uganda International Fashion Week exhibition in Kampala where Natasha Karugire (the President’s daughter) has been one of the passionate exhibitors.
“I have not been favored at all. I’m in all this because of merit. The President likes me because of what I do and for your own information I got to meet him the first time when I wasn’t even 25. The president willingly walked into Arapapa because of who we are and what we do. I’m a young lady just happy to do what I like-and going about my Arapapa business but I don’t know why someone is so afraid of my success and achievements for the Uganda AGOA exporters association. They have had the power and resources for the last 17 years and frustrated the President by achieving so little,”
Anzo explained. “I knew this was coming, so many people have warned me about it but I won’t give up. Let them be rest assured I’m not interested in anyone’s job. I can contribute to the President’s vision without having to take anyone’s job under AGOA. I’m too busy and not interested in those powerful jobs.”
Anzo previously was recognized by the President who made her winner of the President’s Transformation Appreciation Award. “That prize recognized my contribution despite the young age and by that time I was in my mid 20s.”
She also referred to the day Museveni introduced her to Uhuru Kenyatta. “I had gone to Serena picking a bridal gown for my client and the President saw me from a distance and called me. He introduced me to President Kenyatta and even invited me to the dinner. I said ‘but sir I’m not dressed appropriately’ and he said it’s okay and he did this because I know he is very proud of me as a young entrepreneur,” explained Santa Anzo whose financial grants State House handlers insisted are partly responsible for why the State House budget always gets depleted prompting Nakyobe to go for supplementary funding.
“He isn’t just favoring me but it’s because of my track record, the things we have done as Arapapa. We have inspired many women and young people into this industry and we have marketed their careers within Uganda and abroad. I think that is how I caught the President’s attention,” she said adding it’s not only Museveni appreciating her transformative work.
“You can say the same of the Queen, the Nabagereka of Buganda. She has been to our events and seen the seriousness.” She said the difference between her and Susan is that whereas she is appointed to do what she does by the “struggling exporters yawning for the AGOA market, my boss [Susan] was appointed by the President.”
Susan is Santa Anzo’s boss because she is the patron of the recently formed Uganda AGOA Exporters Association at whose USAID-supervised elections Santa defeated Jakana Food proprietor Ms Mega who Mrs. Muhwezi preferred for pioneer association president.
Mrs Muhwezi’s supporters have lately been attempting a coup to oust Anzo in order to deny her that privileged platform to access the President and the USAID opportunities but members have been solidly behind her. This polling took place during an AGOA consultation meeting USAID/US Embassy organized at Serena in February.
During the meeting, Santa Anzo claiming to represent the low profile struggling exporters who were so many at the event, made a moving speech in which she criticized the Uganda AGOA initiative leaders for not doing enough to enable indigenous Ugandans benefit from the American market. As her supporters cheered “tell them, tell them,” Anzo wondered why the President is always made to flag off consignments going to the US market from companies whose proprietors are mostly Asians and other foreign investors.
This greatly irked Susan Muhwezi who was in the meeting and sources say she took it like Santa Anzo (whose AGOA-related influence on the President had always discomforted her) was indirectly attacking her and questioning her leadership credentials. “When she got the microphone, Susan questioned who is this Santa Anzo demeaning our efforts like that? Where has she been all this time? What does she mean to say Ugandans have not benefited?” sources quoted Mrs. Muhwezi as fuming at the Serena event.
Santa Anzo confirmed this narrative saying “that day I left knowing it wasn’t going to be easy because I wasn’t her favorite for that position.” She says many people warned her “but I wasn’t worried and instead I planned to reach out to mend fences but I’m now surprised to continue being witch hunted for the position that doesn’t earn me any transport or sitting allowance.”
She said all this notwithstanding she is committed to continue working with Susan Muhwezi in her capacity as patron Uganda AGOA exporters association. “I have been attacked and humiliated but we just must achieve it for our people. We have a huge agenda and we won’t be blackmailed,” says Anzo sounding very determined.
“I’m motivated by how much Madagascar and Ethiopia have achieved from AGOA mostly through exports that are largely fashion oriented.” She says four Eastern African countries have benefited most-Mauritius, Madagascar, Ethiopia and Kenya-annually bagging $1.4bn in Agoa exports. “Ethiopia and Madagascar have made it mostly because of fashion and in each of them this AGOA strategy has created 26,600 jobs in the last 17 years. Can you just imagine how happy and relieved our President would be if our country could also achieve so much?”