Gertrude Nalule, a mother of five with two other dependents has this Monday been released from prison, close to two months after she was jailed for failure to pay a date of 2.88 million Shillings.
Additionally, she has been on the verge of losing her home to the moneylender who claims to have bought it in one of those curious loan arrangements where the borrower is made to sign an agreement to have sold the property to the lender at a deceitfully far higher amount than the one borrowed.
Nalule who was widowed a few years ago sold groceries at a stall in her small compound in Namungoona, a Kampala suburb, to fend for her family living in a two-roomed house constructed by village mates after her husband’s passing.
She says that in 2020, her neighbor, Godfrey Bazaale offered her three million shillings to grow her business but the same was affected when COVID-19 hit and a lockdown was instituted. Later in 2021, she was extended another two million Shillings, but still, her business failed as she registered losses.
Now earlier this year, Nalule says that Bazaale started demanding his money. Although Nalule was willing to pay back the money, her business had collapsed and she was unable to do so. Soon, she narrates, Bazaale went to court accusing her of breach of contract.
Although Nalule reported a money lending transaction, Bazaale told court that he and Nalule had entered an agreement selling the land to him at 10 million Shillings. According to court records, Bazaale reported having paid seven million shillings in installations of five and two million to Nalule before she later declined to pick the remaining three million shillings.
This practice is now widespread as a debtor is asked to sign a sale agreement as part of the collateral and whenever the repayment date elapses, the creditor takes over the property saying that he bought it.The trick is usually used by money lenders and it has been criticized by regulating authorities.
The above-mentioned fact notwithstanding, Bazaale won the case and was awarded 2.88 million shilling in costs and damages caused by Nalule. Nalule says when Bazaale pursued her in court, he also attempted to evict her children from the house, and demolished her stall as well.
Recently, Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja met with the Magistrate Grade One, Amon Mugezi, who presided over the case at Mwanga II Court hosted in Mengo and other court officials with the Resident City Commissioner and the cabinet minister for Kampala to discuss Nalule’s case.
The premier says that she had watched Nalule’s story on a local TV station and decided to visit her in Luzira prison from where she learnt that Nalule’s seven children had been left alone in the house under the care of the eldest child aged 17 years who also missed sitting for her final examination as a Senior Four candidate. One of children who was a P.7 candidate equally missed examinataions, Nabbanja said.
However, when Nabbanja held the meeting with court officials on Monday, she thought that clearing Nalule’s date would not only buy her freedom from prison but also rescue her land and house. But this was not to happen easily as the presiding magistrate informed her that the cleared date was for damages and had nothing to do with regaining ownership of the contested land.
The magistrate told the meeting that evidence before court indicated that Nalule had sold her land to Bazaale and that another procedure needed to be taken if the land was to be recovered from him. Nabbanja intervened saying that the contested land belonged to Nalule’s children and she therefore couldn’t have sold it.
In defense of the moneylender Mugezi, the magistrate, said that court didn’t have any alternative facts since Nalule declined to appear before the court when summoned to defend herself. He said that the court even visited locus and asked Nalule to appear but in vain.
Nabbanja interjected, wondering why the court would visit the contested land and yet could not gather facts as simple as the land ownership. She told the meeting that the role of courts was to deliver justice and not to frustrate the poor people.
As the meeting proceeded into a heated phase, Nabbanja asked journalists out of the room to allow the meeting to proceed in camera. After the meeting which lasted close to 20 minutes, Nabbanja told the press that the meeting had agreed that the case be reviewed to ensure that justice prevails.
She said the meeting also realized that Nalule was a victim of conspicuous money lending where the lender lends a small amount of money and treats the transaction as a sell.
Nalule was driven back home in a vehicle from the Prime Minister’s office escorted by the Lubaga Division Deputy Resident City Commissioner Anderson Buroora. She was welcomed amidst jubilation from her neighbor in Namungoona zone two.
One of the people who came to Nalule’s home upon return was Christine Nakkonde, the Secretary for Women affairs Naabakyala Namungoona zone two. Nakkonde who was key in following Nalule’s case and publicizing it, accused Bazaale of acting unscrupulously to acquire the land.
She says that Bazaale worked with a Chairman of a distant local council to acquire the land without considering the facts on ground, including that Nalule wasn’t the rightful owner of the land and had no letters of administration for the same.
Nabbanja has promised to help Nalule’s elder child by financing her studies and has also started renovating Nalule’s house.
Meanwhile, away from Nalule, Nabbanja is also working on files of other women who were imprisoned on cases relating to failure to clear debts. She said she would pay debts of Monica Tusingwiire and Nakazibwe Lule from Makindye, Samalie Namakula from Mengo and Mariam Ssempijja.
Nabbanja says that there are 647 women in prison on cases of failure to clear debt. She says that they shall work with the office of the Attorney General to help those women such that they can return home and the prisons are de-congested.