Thursday, February 25We Break the News

Coronavirus – Uganda: Ministry of Health Vows Not To pay bad black

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The Ministry of Health has this Sunday afternoon released a three page media statement responding to “black mail” by Bad Black aka Shanita Namuyimbwa who yesterday recorded messages threatening to sue government unless the MoH pays her Shs500m. She says this demand is in respect of the COVID19-related audio and video message she recorded last month communicating the risk associated with reckless behavior among sex workers. Her message, that was for weeks aired on Radios and TVs, clearly targeted prostitutes and sex workers (the Ministry curiously calls them her colleagues) who were a high risk group that were being urged to shun truck drivers amongst whom COVID19 cases were rampant until recently.

The Ministry says they never contracted Ms Black whose message even ceased to be relevant after Wednesday 10th June when its airing stopped (having ceased to be relevant) and was replaced by more relevant messages. That the key messaging is destined to keep changing from time to time and the sex workers, to whom Ms Black communicated, have ceased to be a high risk group after truck drivers got neutralized. That the current COVID risk messaging has since shifted to warning against complacency among the public and popularization of face masks which are two key interventions or measures that have nothing to do with Ms Black.

The Ministry gives the background to how Ms Black came to be involved. That, following the clarion call the President made, many entities and individuals stepped forward volunteering to contribute in whatever way they could. One of these was a company called Precision Communications Consulting Ltd that stepped forward and offered to record the relevant messages the Ministry wished to communicate and popularize at that material time. On getting the recorded messages, the Ministry proceeded to place them with media houses to be aired and the media houses had to be separately paid by the Ministry as part of its mandate. That actually it’s not only Ms Black but many other eminent citizens offered to record messages serving as good will ambassadors on the strength of the influence they were presumed to have on the targeted sections of society. None of them has since claimed any payment for the volunteerism they exhibited and the Ministry commends them for. The Ministry maintains none of them was to be paid even a penny for the message they offered to record through Precision Communications Ltd.

That whereas they appreciate the voluntary service Ms Black offered as a responsible citizen of Uganda to save “her colleagues” (just like many others did), the Ministry or even the GoU doesn’t have any contractual obligation with her as her lawyers alleged in their notice of intention to sue in pursuit of their Shs500m claim. The Ministry says her threats and the subsequent messages she aired on social media must be ignored lest health workers and the entire Ugandan populace get derailed from focusing on the major COVID19 fight that must be won. It’s clear from the statement that the Ministry doesn’t currently consider Ms Black’s message useful anymore in the fight against COVID since the sex workers have long ceased being a big risk group since the threat posed by truck drivers has since been neutralized. That in any case, she willingly offered her recording to the media company and can’t adduce any evidence that she ever entered any contract with the Ministry entitling her to expect any pecuniary reward.

Ms Black must have underestimated the contempt with which the thick-skinned ladies currently running the show at Wandegeya are used to ignoring threats like hers. Indeed, the statement stresses that no one is going to yield to any blackmail by Ms Black and it’s emphasized therein that the leadership at the Wandegeya-based MoH believes in integrity and transparent methods of work implying there is no way anyone could have entered any secretive contracting with Ms Black.

Bad Black has run out of patience and through her lawyers, Musangala Advocates and Solicitors, has served the Attorney General William Byaruhanga and Precision Media Ltd a notice of intention to sue.

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