By Arinaitwe Rugyendo
Like his name ‘Mpora Mpora’ suggests, the Late Eustace Mpora Kitookye, who passed on Sunday night, was a ‘slow but sure’ prolific entrepreneur, mentor, a kind man and strict parent.
‘Strict Parent’ because he was my uncle by virtue of being married to my paternal Aunt, Mrs. Joy Mpora Rutemure.
Mrs Rutemrure, born in Kitembe, Nyaburiza Ntungamo District, is a maternal cousin to my departed dad, Mr. Vincent Beyanga Kahambiriza ka Rugyendo, who passed on when I was only 3 months old.
I came into contact with Uncle Mpora towards the Christmas of 1998 having lost all my belongings to goons in the old taxi park of the central business district of Kampala City as I was trying to connect to a bus to the village in Mbarara on my way from Makerere University. I was a third year student then.
On that day, I walked on foot up to Calendar Rest House (Now Calendar Hotel) to report my ordeal to my aunt.
I found the two having tea. There was a flurry of activity. I think there was a party and everyone was busy.
“So what do you want this time,” my strict auntie sternly asked me.
“I lost everything to goons from the old taxi park,” I answered.
Mzee Mpora felt so much pity and asked me to go take a shower and thereafter, someone would give me shirt to put on. When I was done, a waiter brought a uniform shirt with a hotel logo.
My auntie asked me to help with the function as she thought of what to do for me. In no minute I started waiting on clients. She followed me around teaching me how to hold a tray and serve clients properly.
One night turned into days and in no minute, I had my first job as a Waiter. Mr. Mpora decreed that I would earn Shs. 50,000 per month. He also decreed that unlike the rest of the workers, I would eat with the family, feed on the food he fed on and sleep like a king in the family wing of Calendar Rest House.
While at Calendar, I worked during the night for I had to attend to my classes at Makerere University during day time.
Throughout the six months I stayed at Calendar working hard to raise my next suitcase full of clothes, I rose from waiter to a Barman.
My auntie gave me a book that changed my life. It was ‘Think Big,’ by Dr. Ben Carson. She predicted that with that book I would become an entrepreneur. She was proven right three years later when we started Red Pepper.
But it was my interaction with Uncle Mpora that was more interesting. Mzee Mpora, with his modest education, was a stickler to cleanliness, time keeping, early rising, constant work.
“My son, even if you have finished all your assigned work, keep pretending to be doing something all the time until you sleep. Don’t just stand there and relax,” he often told me while patting me on the back.
Mzee Mpora’s background was the reason for his restlessness until work was done.
Born on May 9th, 1945, he married my auntie on August 14th, 1970.
He started out his entrepreneurial career at the young age of 14, after his father fell on hard times. The decision to start working was in order for him to look after his 10 siblings for whom he sacrificed his own education to see them through school.
At Age 17, he was crowned the best trader in the whole of Ibanda District and awarded space to trade in the then bigger town of Mbarara.
The Young Mpora competed well amongst the seasoned Asian traders and went on to win the Uganda’s World Trader of the Year Award commissioned by the then Uganda Chamber of Commerce.
He diversified into the Hospitality sector in the early 1990s, founding Uganda’s hot spot then, Calendar Rest House in Makindye Kampala. Many bands made their debuts here.
He touched many lives, having supported over 100 children through school to adulthood.
When I was being interviewed for my first job at the The Monitor newspaper in February 2000, Charles Onyango Obbo looked at my CV and one item struck him;
“So, tell us how it felt working as Waiter at Calendar Rest House?” he asked.
“I got to learn different types of people. The stubborn, the rich, the cantankerous, the loyal customers, the abusive ones, the jolly ones and high and mighty,” I responded.
“So how will this help you in your reporting?’ he asked me again.
“I will be able to balance hundreds of interests and personality traits,” I answered.
“You have a job,” he promised.
I walked out of the interview room as the youngest Bureau Chief ever in The Monitor’s history.
I owe my business ideological orientation to Mzee Mpora, a subject of my upcoming book.
To my cousins Carol Mpora, Jackie Mpora, Patricia, Stella Mpora Khan, Philip and David, you are lucky to have been fathered by him.
May Mzee Mpora’s soul rest in peace!